Top Of The Flops: Rock Band 4 PC Crowdfunding Fails

Plastic guitar enthusiasts Harmonix have failed in their attempt to crowdfund a PC port of their 2015 rhythm game Rock Band 4 [official site]. They had hoped to raise $1,500,000 (£1.07 million-ish) on Fig, which is a bit like a less-known and less-trusted version of Kickstarter which also supports actual financial investments. The campaign ended this morning with only $792,817 pledged, which means they get nothing. Harmonix haven’t said yet whether they’ll try again another way, but it’s not good news for folks who wanted to rock out with their Winsock out.

Harmonix were hoping to bring over Rock Band 4 and make a Steam Workshop version of their Rock Band Network tools, which let musicians convert their songs to Rock Band tracks and sell ’em. RBN isn’t new, but it used to require paid membership and a lot more fuss to get a song into game. In theory, it could’ve given RB4 a far larger and fresher library of songs.

Of the $793k pledged for Rock Band 4, only $201k was pledges from would-be players. The other $592k was interest from investors, who could have received a return on their cash. But using a crowdfunding site other than Kickstarter is risky, as they’re far less known – and less trusted. Fig has seemed to be quite conservative and only allowed games which looked fairly safe bets, and of the five projects so far I’ve not doubted any would be finished, but the sheen has worn off crowdfunding and Fig’s semi-investment nature makes it weird and confusing.

Would an actual Kickstarter have reached $1.5m? Given the drawn-out public death of plastic instrument games, the number of free alternatives already on PC (including Phase Shift and Frets on Fire), and that it wouldn’t include that cash from investors, I think it’d be unlikely. But maybe some of those investors can still be persuaded to fork up more. Harmonix said yesterday that they’d post another update after the campaign ended, so I guess we’ll soon see what’s what.

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  1. davethejuggler says:

    “$1,500,000 (£10.7 million-ish)”

    I think some maths went a bit awry there!

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      Matchstick says:

      Yeah, I know the exchange rate has gone down quite a bit recently but that still seems somewhat excessive.

      • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

        That’s like one billion when converted to Canadian dollars.

        • TWChristine says:

          Just imagine what it’d be like if converted to Zimbabwean dollars! I don’t even know if calculators can handle that kind of number..

          • Bforceny says:

            Well I did: it’s equal to about Error Zimbabwean dollars.

  2. Kefren says:

    I play Rock Band 3 every weekend with my friends. But we just use it as a group tab provider in pro mode. We use dongles to trick the Xbox into thinking it has pro instruments attached, then plug our real instruments (midi drums, guitar, bass guita, mic) into an amp below the projector screen. Then we just copy the notes on the screen, but are doing it with real instruments, and gradually ramp up the difficulty. It’s fun because a) it is a group thing b) it’s in the living room c) it’s not a game – we’re really playing. Without those features we’d have no interest (which is why we stopped playing Rock Band 1 and 2 and all the clones once we moved to real instruments).

    The downside for guitar is that Rock Band 3 displays the tabs (notes) based on their pro guitars, but not all the songs work on a real guitar, because some of the songs are in non-standard tunings (most often drop D). And Harmonix neglected to list the tuning anywhere, so the only way to find out is to play each song and use some complicated rating system to mark and sort those that sound “wrong”. Combined with the issue that Rock Band 3 doesn’t remember your sorting options so you have to re-do them every time you load it, I can see us moving on again in a few years. We’ve all got some kind of phone or tables, so can easily bring up tabs in that way (and run them through the projector if we want). Also you then just play the mp3 or Youtube video if you want backing.

    As a way of making real music these things can be great, but it was never where Harmonix et al were heading – it was more a side effect that it works as well as it does.

    A game aimed at real tabs, group play, designing characters, easy sorting by tuning etc would be a must-buy.

    • Wisq says:

      Well, Rocksmith has group play and sorting by tuning. It uses its own Guitar Hero-esque “falling notes” approach, but it’s something like a vertical form of tabs. But, it’s guitar-only (including multiple guitars), though it does provide lyrics.

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        keefybabe says:

        Rocksmith has group play? Now this I didn’t know!!!

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        keefybabe says:

        Ok, that’s my night sorted now.

      • Kefren says:

        It is an option, maybe via laptop and projector, though we’d really miss the drums – possibly with so many notes the drummer needs a tab more than anyone. (I have both versions fo Rocksmith on Steam, though only tried them once). I can’t remember, does it have a “no fail mode”? Since there’s be no instruments attached to the laptop we’d need it to ignore the fact that it is getting no feedback but to carry on anyway (as Rock Band can do in all but the training modes – for that one it immediately stops until you press the correct button, which I can’t do since I have no controller plugged in).

        • snv says:

          You could use the Riff Repeater and select the whole song. That way you can also adjust the speed.
          Or you could use the Score Attack mode.

          You need to plug in the rocksmith cable anyways (it’s used as a hardware DRM), so you could also just let it listen to your guitars too.

    • AstroHun says:

      I legit would like to see a supporter post about this. This sounds fascinating to me.

      Though I guess it’s console based? Just color me all sorts of intrigued.

      • Kefren says:

        Yes, console, though last gen – Xbox 360.
        Basically I only keep the Xbox for Rock Band 3. I have no other games.
        Rock Band took us from cheapo plastic instruments (which got us in the habit of messing around with music and playing at ebign a band and singing in front of each other) up to the point where we play real songs together, often with no backing or game. It’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. My ideal evening is my “band” coming round; we all bring food and share a meal; then play a boardgame; then have drinks and make music and laugh a lot. That’s most Saturday nights now!

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    I was actually interested in this, having played Rock Band once or twice and enjoyed it and PC being my preferred platoform, but more in a “might buy if I have some spare cash” than the “must have now” sort of way, so I didn’t back it… I suspect ports for existing games to new platforms are not a good fit for crowdfunding. It’s hard to get excited about the possibility of a project that already exists out in the world.

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    Harlander says:

    I hadn’t thought about Winsock in a long time.

    Hopefully, it’ll be an equally long time before I have to consider it again.

  5. BobbyDylan says:

    I dont see the point in getting good at playing a plastic guitar that gives you nothing…when you could play Rocksmith and get good at playing an actual guitar.

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      keefybabe says:

      I think this is the thing.. Rocksmith is the king that’s going to be hard to knock off it’s perch.

    • Skid says:

      I agree, I have 500 hours in Rocksmith why would I want Rock Band, real guitar, cheap plastic thing. To be fair the main problem is that people think guitars are expensive, but if you want to learn from scratch you can pickup a cheap guitar for less then a full set of plastic instruments. It won’t sound the best, but nether will you when your learning.

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      Thirith says:

      I don’t see the point in getting good at playing FIFA which gives you nothing… when you could play real football. Seriously, most people play games to play games, not because doing so teaches them to do x, y or z. If there are games that do that, no problem, but I don’t think this is a hobby with a major utilitarian angle.

      Also, does Rocksmith let you play in a guitar/bass/drums/singer setup, with everyone getting their own tracks, being scored and contributing towards the overall achievement of goals? From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t, although perhaps my information is outdated.

      The two games are obviously similar, but they still do things differently enough that there’s a niche for either.

    • snv says:

      Those do not really compare nor compete.

      We regularly (sadly only twice a year) have a guitar hero evening at one of my jobs. Connect an Xbox to a Beamer in the conference room, connect a full instrument set, get pizza and beer… This is were those plastic guitar games shine.
      The owner of the hardware even just got through the trouble to track down an unused second hand drumkit for the last session.

      As much as i enjoy Rocksmith myself, i think it would be almost impossible to use it as a party game like that.

    • GHudston says:

      Most people don’t pick up Rock Band with the end goal of learning to play the guitar. You’re comparing a guitar themed rhythm game to an educational tool. It’s like asking why people play DDR when they could take dancing lessons.

      When I play Rock Band, I do it because I want to have a laugh while pretending to be a skilled musician. I have no interest in the sheer amount of practice and effort it’ll take me to actually be able to play Through the Fire and the Flames on a real instrument but it’s fun to pretend. It’s air guitar with points.

      • Geewhizbatman says:

        Don’t forget the “Make your wacky rock persona” feature! (Literally the only thing I remember about this game and any of the karaoke games. Well, that and the brief shame of being bad at playing a fake guitar or realizing that Whitney Houston covers might not be your thing.)

  6. Ethaor says:

    PC players aren’t fond of console ports even if the game type is port friendly.

    The PC crowd like their game to be developed and designed with PC in mind, that’s what they like to support and pay for. The PC market is already crowded with console ports that players don’t have to fund first.

    The whole point of crowdfunding and why it’s been so successful is also to take part from traditional investments methods and detach evil businessman from our lovely games thus letting the devs develop and design on their term.

    Asking the PC crowd to take the risk and help investors to make money on a console port is ill advised and was bound to fail. What where they thinking?

    Also, 1.5 million US dollar for a simple port with steam workshop? What the hell?

    • Ethaor says:

      I guess the price is explained in one word. Licensing.

    • Oddbrother says:

      They have written an article about their failed campaign and why they required so much money, and licensing is not one of them. It’s the lack of tools.
      link to

    • DantronLesotho says:

      The thing is, it’s not as simple as you might think it is. Developing for PC when you had previously worked in console IDE’s is very very different. $1.5 million is actually a pretty low number, considering the quality that they wanted to bring to the market for it. Plus there is a lot of backend server stuff that also needs to be developed to accommodate essentially a new rock band network leg, which is not easy.