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Beatles music goes digital in new game from "Rock Band" team

October 30, 2008 |  9:08 am


Forty-five years after young music fans were invited to “Meet the Beatles,” those fans, their children and in some cases grandchildren will get the chance to be the Beatles as the group’s music makes its way into a new participatory video game.

Beatles music will at long last become part of the digital universe next year as part of the new game being developed by the creators of the hit “Rock Band” franchise, it was announced today.

The Fab Four’s recordings, the major holdout from availability in any digital form, will be part of a still-untitled game, being described as a fully immersive and interactive experience, to be released for the 2009 holiday season, said Jeff Jones, chief executive of Apple Corps, the company the Beatles established in 1968 to oversee their business affairs.

“The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of the Beatles and their music,” Paul McCartney said in a statement. “I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out.”  McCartney; Ringo Starr; John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison all have been and will continue to be directly involved in creating the game, Jones said.

Participants in the press conference, which included MTV executives Judy McGrath and Van Toffler and Alex Rigopulos, chief executive and co-founder of Harmonix, which created “Rock Band” and is a division of MTV Networks, said the game would take players on a journey through the Beatles’ music and story through imagery and songs spanning the band’s career.

They also said it will be a completely new game, not a Beatles edition of "Rock Band." Current owners of "Rock Band" systems will, however, be able to use some of the same game peripherals.

"The Beatles continue to evolve with the passing of time and how wonderful that the Beatles' legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerized world we live in," Starr said in the same statement.

Music supervisor for the game will be Giles Martin, the son of original Beatles producer George Martin, who worked with his father in creating the double Grammy-winning soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil-Beatles show “Love” in Las Vegas.

There had long been speculation about the use of Beatles music in a video game format, and earlier this year, Martin Bandier, chief executive of Sony ATV Publishing, which owns most of the Beatles copyrights, told The Times that he “liked the idea of a dedicated Beatles edition of ‘Guitar Hero.’”
In aligning instead with the rival “Rock Band” team, Jones said that “MTV and Harmonix was clearly the innovator in this category of games; they had the first platform to offer a full band experience. Apple also was impressed with their creative approach.”

Despite continued requests from many Beatles fans for sonically upgraded Beatles recordings, Giles Martin said the new video game would largely rely on the existing recordings and audio mixes.

“The thing we're trying to keep here is for people to play the songs as though they’re playing the originals,” he said. “We’ll be [using] the original mixes that my father and the Beatles did back in the day, and doing our best to preserve the sound quality. We want people to interact with what they know very well, as opposed to rehashing the music as we did in ‘Love.’”

Jones and Rigopulos said that because the game is still in development, they could provide few details about the Beatles video game experience.

“By presenting their music and artistry thorugh the creative filter of a groundbreaking video game, we are giving legions of fans and music lovers all over the world a profound, new way to experience the Bealtes,” Rigopulos said.

Jones said that the particulars of the business deal between Apple Corps; EMI Music, which controls the Beatles recordings, MTV and Harmonix are confidential. Asked whether it was more involved than a typical video game music licensing deal, Jones said, “There’s nothing typical about the Beatles.”

--Randy Lewis

Photo credit: Apple Corps Ltd