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Harmonix's 'Rock Band 4' is set to release this year

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Dust off those plastic guitars, dig out that fake drum kit, and start practicing your vocal harmonies—Rock Band is making a comeback.

Harmonix announced today that Rock Band 4 is currently in development and is slated to hit the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime later this year. While the developer is remaining tightlipped on the soundtrack and exact features, fans can expect the core beat-matching gameplay to make its return.

More importantly, Harmonix is building Rock Band 4 to not just be the premier music game of this console generation, but also make sure it’s the only one you’ll ever need.

EW spoke with members of the Harmonix team to discuss the upcoming game and can confirm that the studio is hard at work to ensure players can migrate their previously purchased tracks to the new generation of hardware. Harmonix can’t commit to how much of the library that spanned the first few Rock Bands will make the transition just yet, but the studio is continuing to work on license and agreements and the technology required to allow players to bring forward as much downloaded content from their PlayStation 3’s and Xbox 360’s for use in the new games. Hundreds of songs are promised at launch, with more to be added afterward, all at no additional charge to players who have already downloaded those songs.

Other than this major push, Harmonix is focusing on two key aspects during the development of the game: the social experience of playing, and offering players more self-expression.

As product manager Daniel Sussman of Harmonix put it, while playing with friends in Rock Band is unlike any other gaming experience, it essentially tasked four friends with playing four different games in the same room together. The development team is working to make those experiences more intertwined both in person and online. While Harmonix would not comment specifically, previous titles’ three-part harmonies and synchronized star power runs may be a likely indicator of what the team is hoping to do more of in the next game.

Self-expression is also a key element to the development of the next Rock Band, with the player-driven drum fills from previous titles a good indicator of what Harmonix would like to expand on in that regard.

Harmonix is partnering again with Mad Catz to publish the game and create the instruments that will be integral to the game. The new guitars and drums will be natively wireless, and while they will look familiar to anyone who’s purchased a plastic stratocaster previously, Harmonix is making some form and function upgrades to the hardware. More about those instruments, as well as the game’s feature set, will be unveiled in the months to come.

For more on the initial announcement, several members of Harmonix’s team spoke in a video from the studio about why now is the time for Rock Band 4.

First and foremost though, it looks like Harmonix is trying to do right by its longtime fans with Rock Band 4. Whether it’s the push to bring players’ old content to the new systems or the well-received survey the studio recently put out to gauge interest, Rock Band 4 is striving to be the ultimate music platform. Sussman explained that the intention is for Rock Band 4 to be the only Rock Band players need going forward, with new content and features added rather than produced and saved for a Rock Band 5, 6, or 7.

Harmonix has plenty more to reveal about the title, but with the studio’s impressive pedigree and history with the already-excellent franchise, it’s time to start practicing those hammer-ons and pull-offs, music gaming fans. The band will play on when Rock Band 4 releases later this year.