Well, the announcement of Rock Band 4 was a surprise, not because of the announcement itself, as it seemed more like a when than an if, but the timing of the announcement and how little was actually revealed. For those not up to date, Harmonix announced that Rock Band 4 will drop this year for Xbox One and Playstation 4 (sorry Wii U) and started to give a few tidbits of information that answers a few questions, but still leaves plenty of room for speculation.
First and foremost, all of your purchased songs from previous Rock Band games will transfer over, AND without a fee, but there are a few caveats to note. First, it's restricted to your account and platform, so if you purchased all your content on 360, you'll only be able to import your purchases into the Xbox One version, and vice versa with the PS3 and PS4.
Given that there won't be an import fee, this is HUGE. I personally have hundreds of Rock Band songs that have been gathering digital dust and I'm incredibly excited that I'll get to replay all of my favorites again this year on my newer console.
That being said, all of the on-disc music from Rock Band 3 won't be available in 4 due to licensing issues, at least currently. The same goes for The Beatles game as well, unfortunately for those fans. It's a tradeoff that seems as if there's no real way around it, or it would be a viable option for us to have. We don't know when Rock Band 4 is releasing other than sometime this year, so maybe with some luck this might change.
There's a big unknown though, and that is if all of our old instruments will work or not on the newer consoles. Obviously there's an issue of the older hardware using completely different wireless protocols so that seems like it's the biggest hurdle. Hopefully there will be some type of adapter or something to make it work, but I'm not sure how they're going to get around that realistically, or else it would have been done previously for controllers and racing wheels.
So given the small bit of information that we do know so far, here's my wish list of features I would love to see in Rock Band 4 from Harmonix.
Backwards compatibility with older instruments.
I get why this is such a big demand from the community. I know I've spent hundreds of dollars on guitars, drums, and keyboards over the years, and obviously it would be nice to put them to good use once again. Honestly, the only reason I really want this feature is because I have the Pro ION Drum set that was vastly superior to the default Rock Band drum set and it will be very difficult learning from scratch on the standard drums once again.
New hardware / instruments
Didn't I just say I want backwards compatibility with the older instruments? Yes. Then why am I asking for new ones? Two main reasons. The first, I want better quality in the hardware itself. The old instruments are just that - old - so many people have either gotten rid of them, are getting a loose button or two on their guitar, or have a pair of drums that doesn't always register properly. Secondly, if there isn't going to be new hardware, that means there mostly likely won't be any new features; meaning we'll simply be playing more Rock Band on current gen hardware.
Yes I want that, but I also want a new experience that also happens to work with the massive catalog of music available on the marketplace. It's a double edged sword, as to innovate and push further you need to progress the hardware (instruments) as well. Sure, it might be off putting for some that have already purchased the whole band set before, but I'm trying to look bigger picture if Rock Band is going to be here to stay.
Stop it, I can hear your groaning from here, but hear me out. Thinking along the lines of evolving Rock Band, as the point is to perform like a Rock Band in your place with your friends, imagine the capability this could add. What if the Kinect could detect how well you're performing visually, not just acoustically through the microphone and instruments? Maybe you could get bonus points for being very animated as a singer, having the guitarists lean back to back like any good 80's music video, or detecting the arm movements from the drummer for enthusiasm. The possibilities are great and if I was given bonus points for being very animated while singing a solo, I would absolutely do it. Better yet, what if Kinect could read your gestures and translate those onto your in game characters subtly somehow or have backup dancers?
This is obviously a no brainer, and yes there's already over 2000+ songs on the Rock Band marketplace, but there needs to be more. I'm not going to list why I think a certain band should be included simply because I like them as it's subjective, but having a broader range would be very welcome, especially when it comes to newer music.
Alternate versions of songs
I'm obviously a fan of the version of a song that's on the album itself, as it's usually the most heard, but given how many songs have been getting remixes, acoustic versions, and covers in the past few years, I would love to see an option to play version A, B, or C of a specific song. Maybe a DJ remix or a different artist's cover for example. Again, the more music the better, and having a broader range will only garner more fans and appeal.
Rock Band Stage Kit support
I know not many had this accessory, but for those that did, it was fantastic. This was essentially a box that you bought that had a smoke machine and light included. What it did, though, was synchronize with your game to add effects when it was most pertinent, which included an awesome light show. I know it wasn't the most popular accessory, but it made a huge difference in giving that true Rock Band experience.
Different bundle options
Some people (like me) will want to purchase the whole experience in a single box with 'new' instruments. This will most likely include a guitar, drum, and microphone. Maybe have an option with a bass in the box as well or use that as the 'ultimate' rock band version. The same goes for the other end of the spectrum, as if backwards compatibility is possible, then simply offering the game for sale for those that have hung onto their instruments all these years. Ideally there would also be bundles with the game and just the microphone, guitar, or drums, but I know that's not always possible as retailers don't want to have 5+ SKUs of a product on the floor, especially large boxes like these. The more options the better, but it will really come down to the 'need' for new instruments or not.
These were an option for Rock Band 3 and I would love to see them make a return (and improved). For those that got very good at the game, this was the next step in challenge and difficulty. My only gripe though was that the pro versions of songs cost more. I get that they obviously take more work on the backend, but when I'm already laying down more cash for the more expensive instruments, it was frustrating. Oh, and double pedals on the drums are a must!
Smartphone / Tablet integration
Just like how the possibilities are endless with my Kinect ideas, the same goes for this. Everyone has a smartphone or tablet, so capitalize on this and make a unique experience for the people at a party that are waiting their turn to play with the instruments instead of being onlookers from the couch. I know when we used to have Rock Band parties in the past it was usually quite a gathering, and simply choosing a song was difficult, so imagine a party-like mode where everyone that's participating logs in to a centralized Rock Band service, complete with their name and instrument preferences. The game would then randomize who plays what and even picks a song for the randomized group. This could be insanely fun or even challenging with a large group of people and would act almost like a roulette wheel of who is playing, what instrument, and what song.
What if people not playing could then vote for the next song so that it's ready to go as soon as the performers finish the song selection they are currently on? What if people on their mobile devices could arbitrarily increase or decrease the difficulty of a song on the fly (within a special mode) if enough vote for it? There are a ton of possibilities and mobile screens need to absolutely be put to use in some way for everyone in the room not playing the instruments themselves.
Season Pass / Subscription / Rentals
I know this is most likely never to happen, simply because it would be a nightmare with music licensing, but imagine if you could subscribe to a Rock Band service much like Netflix, where you could have unlimited access to the Rock Band marketplace for as long as your subscription is valid. I know I own a lot of songs, but with over 2000+ available to purchase, there's no way I'll ever get to play all of the songs, simply because of the cost involved. I know the chances of this happening are almost zero, so maybe the ability to somehow rent a song like how you can do in the Xbox Video marketplace. This would obviously a very slippery slope, especially when DLC already has a bad stigma about it, but there are a few instances where I could see this being useful.
These are some of the items on my wish list for Rock Band 4, even though I'll be preordering and purchasing day 1 regardless. I really do hope to see some innovation with the game and in spite of the fact that Harmonix has already shown the 'new' instruments with no visual differences, we'll have to wait and see what they have up their sleeve for E3 to hopefully learn more.
Finally I would like to give my condolences to the Rock Band Keyboard, which will not be making a return in Rock Band 4. Rest in peace Keyboard / Keytar, you will be missed from at least some of us.