The Beatles are at it again

The Beatles are at it again

The Beatles: Rock Band

Their new release, "The Beatles: Rock Band", is in the video-game arena and hit stores around the world Wednesday, reaching out to a new generation of music fans while simultaneously luring baby boomers into the addictive waters of gaming.

Meanwhile, Beatles purists can spend their hard-earned cash on remastered stereo and mono versions of The Beatles catalogue, which also go on sale Wednesday and are likely to put the legendary quartet back atop the music charts.

But many other fans of the legendary band, and even those youngsters who never really understood The Beatles' appeal, might prefer an experience that's more interactive than merely sitting around and listening to Beatles music. For them, there's the video game.
Made through a collaboration between The Beatles, MTV and Harmonic Music Systems, the game ingeniously welds the song list into a living history of The Beatles and offers players many more options than previous Rock Band iterations.

From the intimacy of the Cavern Club to the screaming apotheosis of Beatlemania at New York's Shea Stadium, the Beatles simulation game allows players to become John, Paul, George or Ringo and embark on some of the seminal moments and songs that defined the band's career and elevated them to the status of rock gods.

The game uses on-screen indicators that players must follow to reproduce The Beatles' legendary music. If a green gem appears on screen, players must press a green gem key on their controllers to score points and eventually win awards.

Compared to other versions of Rock Band and the rival music game Guitar Hero, where missed cues are punished by screeching feedback and painful dissonance, there are fewer penalties for botching the notes on The Beatles: Rock Band. That's a gesture to the legions of boomers who are expected to take their first baby steps into the otherwise dizzying world of new-fangled video games.

The 45-song game sells for about $60 while the premium bundle - including replica plastic guitars, drums and microphones - was expected to be popular despite its $250 price tag.

Video-game analyst Jesse Divnich reckoned the game would sell about 1.7 million copies by the end of the year - generating a hefty payback for a catalogue of songs more than 40 years old. With record sales slumping from $12 billion in 2001 to $5 billion last year, the music industry desperately needs new revenue streams.

Divnich doubted that many youngsters would flock to the game, but judging from the standing ovation Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr received at the E3 videogame conference when they announced the game last year, that assumption might not be accurate.

Further bolstering the game's appeal, reviews have been approaching rave levels both on hardcore gamer sites and in general-interest newspapers. "This game is a love letter to the legend and music of The Beatles," crowed a reviewer at Ars Technica, an ubergeek site. "Get ready for a great experience that captures, encapsulates and recontextualizes a huge part of our collective popular culture."

Many stores are upping staffing levels in advance of the expected rush, including Best Buy, the biggest electronics retailer in the US. "For the next few weeks it's all Beatles," said Jason Levi, a worker at a Best Buy store in San Jose, California. "It's The Beatles for our generation." Economics student Noah Riley said: "I am totally waiting for this game. It takes the music game genre to another level of fun."

His father, Tom, an engineer, said that he, too, is looking forward to trying it with his kids. "I've been buying them games for 20 years now," he said. "Finally, this is one that I'm looking forward to playing."

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