The day the plastic music died: Epic shutting down Rock Band and other servers

The day the plastic music died: Epic shutting down Rock Band and other servers

Man singing excitedly at a Rock Band premiere party
Enlarge / A couple of folks absolutely getting down to Rock Band 2 at that game’s 2008 launch party at LA’s Orpheum Theatre.

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If you’ve ever wanted to achieve a five-star Expert rating for Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames,” now’s the time to grab that track for Rock Band 3. Online stores, DLC, and services for that game and 14 others will shut down on January 24 as Epic Games consolidates its online offerings.

Most notable among the games Epic says have “out-of-date online services and servers” are five Rock Band titles: 1-3, The Beatles, and Green Day. Rock Band’s servers have been online since 2007, sending more than 100 million playable versions of over 2,000 songs for people to play on various plastic instruments studded with brightly colored buttons. You’ll still be able to play any songs you’ve downloaded for those titles but no longer be able to connect for new tunes. Those committed to Rock Band 4 can still keep playing online multiplayer, Epic notes.

Another cornerstone of a bygone era, Unreal will lose servers for many of its games. Epic notes that it intends to bring back online features for Unreal Tournament 3, but Gold, II, Tournament 2003 and 2004, and Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition will go dark after the January 24 date.

Epic—aiming to move all its games into its modern, unified Epic Online Services—had a bit more bad news to share for fans of older or quirkier games. The Mac and Linux versions of sentient pigeon visual romance novel Hatoful Boyfriend and Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star are gone from Epic’s store, though owners can still play them. And the online-dependent games DropMix, Unreal Tournament (Alpha), Rock Band Blitz, SingSpace, and the Rock Band Companion app will no longer work after January 24. Battle Breakers, a mobile-based RPG that had already weathered Epic’s long-term war with Apple, will stop working on December 30, though Epic is offering refunds for any in-game purchases made within 180 days of today’s announcement.

If a game has an online component and you can’t create your own servers for it, those servers will disappear at some point. Ubisoft earlier this year announced shutdowns for older Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Splinter Cell games, among others, eliminating multiplayer and forcing owners to activate DLC before their deadline. The developers of Anno 2070 managed to rebuild a copy of their game that worked with new servers, keeping the game alive in most respects.

Nintendo, more aggressively, has previously taken down the online aspects of entire generations of games by killing servers for the Wii and the DS, then the Wii U and 3DS. Hackers managed to work around some of those shutdowns, too.

The online shutdown of Rock Band‘s classic trio may hamper your ability to break out the instruments and try some new tunes, but the games have served their fans far longer than most. Its direct competitor, Guitar Hero, shut down services for Guitar Hero Live in 2018, making 92 percent of its streaming-only songs inaccessible. That move spurred a false advertising lawsuit and, eventually, a refund program.

Then again, Rock Band‘s longevity, and the interconnection of its titles, leaves us with questions. Will you be able to re-download songs you’ve already purchased? If you bought a song for Rock Band 1-3, and you export it to work in 4, could you still re-download it for a future version of 4 you install after the shutdown date? We’ve emailed Epic Games to ask.

Here’s the list of games Epic says will lose their online services on January 24:

  • 1000 Tiny Claws
  • Dance Central 1-3
  • Green Day: Rock Band
  • Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess
  • Rock Band 1-3
  • The Beatles: Rock Band
  • Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars
  • Unreal Gold
  • Unreal II: The Awakening
  • Unreal Tournament 2003
  • Unreal Tournament 2004
  • Unreal Tournament 3
  • Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition

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