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Beatles jam-session video game due next year*

October 30, 2008 |  9:51 am

The BeatlesAfter many hard days' nights of negotiations, the first video game that lets you perform Beatles music is on its way to consoles next year.

The Beatles' record label, Apple Corps, today announced a deal with MTV Networks and Harmonix, publishers of the Rock Band franchise, to bring the legendary band's songs to an interactive music game. The Beatles game won't be part of the Rock Band franchise, but the creators said that it would be compatible with the Rock Band microphone, guitar controller and drum kit and that they expected it in stores by the 2009 holiday season.

"The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of the Beatles and their music," former Beatles singer and guitarist Paul McCartney said in a statement. "I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out."

Until now, the Beatles, who broke up in the 1970s, have largely skipped the digital music revolution, refusing to sell their extensive song catalog through iTunes and other download stores. But Rock Band and rival Guitar Hero, which let players sing and jam along with hit songs, have been huge sellers for video game publishers. The games also have given a sales boost to many of the bands and musicians featured.

Our colleague Randy Lewis at The Times' Pop & Hiss blog reports on a press conference the companies held this morning:

Participants in the press conference, which included MTV executives Judy McGrath and Van Toffler and Alex Rigopulos, CEO 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.

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.

Executives from MTV and Apple Corps today declined to say whether the agreement would bring Beatles music to Rock Band. According to MTV.com:

It's been reported that MTV and Activision have both been courting the Beatles, arguably the biggest band that has yet to lend their music to either the Guitar Hero or Rock Band franchises. But MTV won out, with Senior Vice President of Games Paul DeGooyer saying that the announcement is the culmination of a conversation between MTV and Apple Corps that had been going on for 17 months.

Apple Corps, MTV and Harmonix said the game was "creatively conceived with input from" McCartney and fellow Beatles founder Ringo Starr, and it received the blessing of Beatles widows Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.

"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 a statement. "Let the games commence."

Rock Band is published by Electronic Arts, of Redwood City, Calif. Lazard Capital Markets said in a research note this morning that the Beatles game could provide a "significant boost" to the franchise, which the investment bank said had lost momentum this year to Guitar Hero, which is published by Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard. Lazard analyst Colin Sebastian said Beatles releases had sold more than 600 million records, tapes and CDs.

-- Chris Gaither

Photo: The Beatles perform on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964. Credit: Associated Press

* This post was updated with additional material from the Pop & Hiss blog.

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