Update, March 24, 2017, 10:30am PT: Dan Walsh, Director of Communications at Harmonix reached out to inform us that the developer made progress with Xbox 360 guitar compatibility and expects to have a patch sooner than previously thought. “Support for Xbox 360 wired and wireless controllers is going to be coming in the first patch for Rock Band VR, likely hitting next week,” said Walsh.
Months ago, Harmonix told us that existing Rock Band guitars would work with Rock Band VR. We expected that meant you would be able to dust off your old gear and give at a new lease on life, but it turns out that if your guitar is for the Xbox 360, you're out of luck.
Recently, we’ve seen a lot of hype about virtual reality peripherals. HTC announced the Vive tracker at CES 2017 along with a variety of specialty peripherals such as rifles, pistols, and even a firehose—and those trackers pave the way for ideas such as full-body awareness systems and trackable pet harnesses. Sony will soon enter the specialty VR peripheral market with the PSVR Aim controller, which is set to launch alongside Impulse Gear’s upcoming shooter Farpoint. But Oculus is getting into this market first.
With all the recent news about VR accessories, it may be easy to forget that Oculus revealed the first VR game with which you would require a specialized controller in 2015 when it partnered with Harmonix to bring the Rock Band franchise to virtual reality—specifically, to the Rift platform.
Xbox 360 Controllers Didn't Make The Cut
Oculus worked with Harmonix to create a special bracket that lets you attach a Touch controller to the neck of a Rock Band guitar, which Oculus included in the Touch controller bundle. When we found out about the included bracket, we reached out to Harmonix for more details and Dan Walsh, the company’s PR manager, confirmed that the bracket comes with Touch controllers so that you wouldn’t have to buy a new guitar to play Rock Band VR if you already have one. We took that response to mean that any Rock Band guitar would work with Rock Band VR. However, we’ve come to find out that all Rock Band guitars are not equal.
Rock Band VR has ample support for PlayStation guitars. You can use the PS4 Fender Jaguar or PS4 Fender Stratocaster on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. The game also supports the older PS3 Fender Stratocaster as long as you have the matching dongle. (Harmonix said the controller won’t pair to a standard Bluetooth dongle.)
Support for Xbox controllers is a little dicey. The game doesn’t support the Xbox 360 guitars at all. Josh Harrison, Social & Community Lead for Harmonix, said in a Reddit post that the developer “would love to support [Xbox 360 controllers] as well.” The company isn’t looking for a cash grab to make customers buy new hardware. “Compatibility on 360 is just trickier for various reasons,” he said, while noting that PS3 controllers are supported.
Xbox One controller support isn’t perfect either. Rock Band VR supports both the Fender Stratocaster and Fender Jaguar (with mandatory firmware update) guitars for Xbox One, but you must be running Windows 10 to use them. Microsoft previously limited the Xbox One wireless controllers to Windows 10, but it later backed down and allowed the controllers to work with Windows 7 and 8.1. It’s unclear why Rock Band guitars are limited to Windows 10.
Rock Band VR features 60 songs for you to rock out to, including hits from Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, Blink-182, Fleetwood Mac, and Paramore, among others. Harmonix said the DLC tracks from previous games aren’t compatible with Rock Band VR, so the library is limited to those 60 titles for now. The developer has DLC tracks in the works, though, including six songs from Aerosmith that will be available soon for $3 each.
Rock Band VR is available now. You will need an Oculus Rift, Oculus Touch controllers, and a guitar peripheral, as well asthe latest graphics driver from Nvidia, to play the game. Oculus sells the game through the Oculus Store for $50. If you need a guitar, bundles with Xbox One or PS4 guitars sell for $70.
Oculus paid for the development of Rock Band VR, which mean the game will remain an Oculus exclusive. Harmonix said it currently has no plans to bring the game to other VR platforms.
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Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.
Every single Rockband and Guitar Hero guitar I've owned and those owned by friends of mine (dozens) have had hardware failures that make them unusable. Buttons not registering, even if it's only 10% of the time, makes it unusable. The ONLY exception is the original corded white Guitar Hero guitar, mine and those of my friends are still holding up over the years. My theory is that original guitar was built to a prototype spec with decent materials, while all the newer wireless guitars that followed were mass produced on the cheap.Reply
Knowing that, I'd never buy a modern Rockband or Guitar Hero guitar again. If a new game is not compatible with that original guitar, I wouldn't even consider buying the game.