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‘Rock Band Network’ will change music game

Music games arguably helped breathe life into the slumping music industry.

The games exposed a younger generation to older music, which in turn spiked album sales of bands like Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe.

The genre, however, has been oversaturated with a high number of releases from the “Guitar Hero” series, which has already seen two new games this year with another three on the way. It’s not that the games being released aren’t high quality — “Guitar Hero: Metallica” is one of the best games released so far this year. When consumers know that a new game will come out every few months, apathy sets in, making it easier to skip a release.

But just as it seemed that the music gaming genre has lost some steam, developer Harmonix made an announcement recently that could again change the scope of music gaming.

The creators of “Rock Band” announced the creation of the Rock Band Network, which should work similar to a gaming version of iTunes. The developer is putting its song-creation tools in the hands of musicians, allowing them to use software to create songs and place them in the game. The artists will receive royalties from the number of downloads, which will range from 50 cents to $3.

The songs will appear first on the Xbox 360 — artists must use Microsoft’s XNA Creator’s Club — and the most popular tracks will be made available on other platforms.

This service could be huge for smaller, independent bands who will get the opportunity to get mainstream attention. This could be the new avenue that bands take to get their music to the masses. Rather than hope to be selected by the Harmonix team for inclusion in the game, it’s now up to every artist to make that decision. Even older bands could benefit, with the ability to release an entire back catalog into the game.

“Our goal with ‘Rock Band’ has always been to go beyond making music games and create a true music platform,” said Alex Rigopulos, CEO and co-founder of Harmonix. “With the Rock Band Network, we’ve evolved the platform to its next logical step, giving players access to an incredible amount of new music by putting the professional tools we use in the hands of the artists themselves.”

It is shaping up to be a big year for Harmonix. Downloadable content for “Rock Band” remains popular. The company secured the license to release music from the Beatles, and have the “The Beatles: Rock Band” game coming in September. But this new venture, which is expected to roll out this fall, adds new dimensions to the genre. If it has an impact anywhere close to the one iTunes has had, this will be one of the biggest gaming advancements in recent years.