Rewind: The Beatles: Rock Band Video Game Debuts in Washington

Forty years after breaking up, the Beatles still know how to make lots of people—even Democrats and Republicans—come together.

By: Michael Gaynor

Tuesday night, the Gibson Guitar Showroom saw members of Congress, White House staffers, and other Washington boldface names convene for the launch party of The Beatles: Rock Band, a new video game that lets players rock out to the Fab Four’s tracks with plastic instruments.

Congress members in attendance included Democrats Mike Quigley of Illinois, Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Joseph Crowley of New York (who was seen shredding to “I Saw Her Standing There” early in the evening), and Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

“And Jesse Jackson Jr. couldn’t be pulled off the mike!” said one member of the Entertainment Software Association, a video-game trade organization that sponsored the event.

The showroom was decked out with a full stage for partygoers to perform virtual renditions of Beatles classics, complete with plastic replicas of the band’s trademark guitars and a big-screen TV where the audience could watch the game in action. Those who felt a touch of stage fright could perform in two private rooms, where Laura Breckenridge of TV’s Gossip Girl was spotted doing her best Ringo impression on drums.

At the bar was a special lemon-flavored drink called the Yellow Submarine.

The Beatles: Rock Band comes at a time when the video-game industry is rapidly growing by attracting broader audiences with more family-orientated software.

“Video games aren’t just for kids anymore,” said Dan Hewitt of the ESA. “They’re now the best medium for reaching new audiences.”

Reaching that new audience was a major factor in bringing The Beatles: Rock Band to life. While music-game franchises have been around for years, none have been able to garner the digital rights to Beatles music. They’ve even eluded online music juggernaut Apple, whose iTunes library is still sorely lacking in the legendary band’s tracks.

“Beatles music is the digital holy grail,” said ESA president Michael Gallagher. So how did a video game finally break the mold?

“The producers of Rock Band were able to connect with Paul and Ringo on the creative process,” Gallagher said. Indeed, the remaining band members had a significant input in making the game and saw an opportunity not only to expand their music into a new medium and attract new and old fans alike.

Hardcore Beatles fans can play along with the band in settings such as their breakthrough on The Ed Sullivan Show or the legendary Shea Stadium performance. And new fans can be exposed to a total of 45 songs from the band’s library in an entirely new light.

“Video games are the fusion of entertainment and technology,” Gallagher said.

So what’s next for the music-game genre? How do you top the Beatles? With more Beatles, of course. Later this year, Rock Band will release some of the band’s full-length albums for download so fans can play every track. First up is Abbey Road followed soon after by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul.

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