In its last earnings call, Viacom admitted that "Rock Band" has been a money loser because of the high cost of producing the instruments. The profit is in the software, Chief Financial Officer Tom Dooley explained, and now that there's a good amount of hardware deployed, MTV is hoping to turn the franchise profitable by selling more software to those of us who have instruments. Or to use a familiar analogy, "It's the razor, razor blade phenomenon. You've got the razors out into the marketplace and sold now we have to push the razor blade through."
Meet your newest razor blade: "The Beatles: Rock Band."
When MTV and Beatles music publisher Apple Corps. announced plans to make a game in the fall, they said very specifically that it would be a stand-alone game not affiliated with the "Rock Band" franchise. That plan obviously changed, quite likely in part because of the exact phenomenom Dooley described -- A game not affiliated with "Rock Band," which might require new hardware, would be a lot tougher to make profitable. Especially given the huge royalties MTV is paying Apple to get the Beatles rights.