Rock's holy grail: MTV scores Beatles music for video game

MTV Games announced a music world coup Thursday morning, revealing it has exclusively licensed the songs of the Beatles for a new video game.

MTV Games announced a music world coup Thursday morning, revealing it has exclusively licensed the songs of the Beatles for a new video game.

The company behind the blockbuster gaming title Rock Band is working with Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, for the landmark initiative — marking the band's first major plunge into digital music.

Surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as well as the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison — Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison — have given their blessing to the project and provided creative input as well.

"The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of the Beatles and their music," McCartney said in a statement.

"I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out."

Starr added: "How wonderful that the Beatles' legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerized world we live in."

Standalone game

Harmonix, the game developers of the successful Rock Band franchise, will develop a new standalone game and not simply an "expansion pack," company officials said on a media conference call Thursday morning.

No financial details were revealed.

Martin, who with his father developed the Beatles-themed Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show Love as well as its soundtrack, said the game would be based on the band's U.K. releases.

While the music in Love was more of a remixing of Beatles tracks, he said, the intention in the new game is for people to play the songs as though they're playing the originals and "interact with what they know very well."

Jeff Jones, CEO of the band's Apple Corps Ltd., said the game would include songs from the entire Beatles catalogue.

Officials forecast a release in time for the 2009 holiday season.

Digital distribution?

The 2007 settlement of a dispute between technology giant Apple and Apple Corps, the band's record and media company, sparked talk of the Beatles catalogue heading online.

The solo work of each Beatle has also been introduced on internet music retailers within the past two years, leading to further speculation that the band's music would soon follow. In an interview last November, McCartney predicted a deal sometime in 2008.

"The whole thing is primed, ready to go — there's just maybe one little sticking point left, and I think it's being cleared up as we speak, so it shouldn't be too long," he said at the time.

On Thursday's call, however, Jones revealed little regarding further expansion into the digital realm.

"All I can say is that we're still working out the details, we have no announcement to make, no date or any information," he said.

In the past year, video games like Rock Band and rival title Guitar Hero — which allow participants to play along to famous songs on plastic instrument-shaped controllers — have garnered increasing interest from the music industry because of their wide appeal as well as the ability to sell additional tracks, song sets and full albums online to extend gameplay.

In the run-up to the recent release of sequels for the rival games, teams behind each title bragged about netting rare acts or tracks for their respective games.

Rock Band 2, for instance, includes the debut of a new song from the long-awaited Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy, as well as the participation of musical icons like AC/DC and Bob Dylan.

Meanwhile, Guitar Hero: World Tour features several songs by, and an avatar fashioned after, Jimi Hendrix as well as songs off the newest Oasis album.