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E3 2010: MTV outsources Rock Band instruments, embraces dancing

June 17, 2010 |  4:40 pm

JustDance MTV still loves Rock Band. It's making the instruments for Rock Band that is causing headaches.

That's why MTV has now signed a deal with a company called Mad Catz Inc. to produce the bulk of its instrument controllers. While Rock Band is very popular, the games have not been moneymakers for MTV parent Viacom in large part because of the cost of producing the fake instruments used in the game. The only instrument controller that Mad Catz won't be responsible for is a guitar controller that has six strings and actually works as a real guitar that is being produced by Fender, the iconic guitar manufacturer.

The new Rock Band 3 from MTV's developer, Harmonix Music Systems, will feature keyboards. That means that seven people can play the game simultaneously, including three singers, and it will likely require even better insulation in the basement. Harmonix has altered the game to make it easier for friends to jump in and start performing together while also adding new in-depth options for those who want to use the game to actually learn to play music.

MTV is also unveiling another game at E3 this week called Dance Central, which represents the first non-Rock Band game that MTV and Harmonix have produced. It uses Microsoft's new Kinect interface to track players' full body movements as they follow the moves of an on-screen instructor to mimic increasingly complex dance moves.

Harmonix has been looking to make a dancing game for several years, developers showing off Dance Central at E3 said, but could never devise a way to make one work until they saw a prototype of Kinect for the first time last year.

If Dance Central, which launches in November along with Kinect, is a success, it would add diversity to MTV's games business, which currently consists of only the Rock Band franchise.

--Ben Fritz


Company Town's E3 coverage

Beatles: Rock Band sales slow over holidays as music video game genre bombs

Viacom hopes the Beatles: Rock Band game sets stage for rebound

Photo: Players trying Dance Central at E3. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.