MTV strikes deal to use Beatles songs in video game

NEW YORK (Reuters) - MTV Networks announced on Thursday a deal to use songs by The Beatles in a custom video game similar to its popular “Rock Band” video, marking the groundbreaking band’s first major plunge into digital music.

Michele Bessem from Holland wears a Beatles patch as she queues at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the George Harrison memorial concert, November 29, 2002. REUTERS/Peter Macdiarmid

There is no set release date or sale price for the game, but it is due to be ready for a worldwide release in about a year, said MTV Networks and The Beatles’ Apple, which handles the affairs of the group that broke up in 1970 after revolutionizing rock and roll in the 1960s.

The companies released few details about the game -- which will be a custom video and not a “Rock Band” brand game -- saying it is still in development. They would only say that it will be an “interactive music making game.”

“Rock Band” -- which is developed by MTV’s Harmonix and published by Electronic Arts Inc and competes against Activision Blizzard Inc’s rival “Guitar Hero” video -- lets fans play plastic guitars along with music on TV screens.

Jeff Jones, chief executive of Apple Corps Ltd, said while he could not say how many songs would be used in the custom game, it would use music from throughout The Beatles’ career.

“This game will take you on a journey from The Beatles first album ‘Please, Please Me’ all the way through the last album ‘Abbey Road.’ It will span samples of the whole catalog all the way through,” Jones said.

The Beatles have sold more than 600 million albums worldwide. While “Abbey Road” was the last album they recorded together, “Let it Be” -- recorded before “Abbey Road” -- was the final album released.

MTV Networks, owned by Viacom Inc’s, said the game was conceived creatively by former Beatles Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and the wives of late Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.

“The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of The Beatles and their music. I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out,” McCartney said in a statement.

Starr said it was wonderful that The Beatles’ legacy “will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerized world we live in. Let the games commence.”

While The Beatles’ video will be a custom game, other bands including classic rock veterans Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and others have licensed their music to “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band.”

Pop music fans consider The Beatles perhaps the greatest rock band ever. Surviving members of the group as well as its representatives have jealously guarded the distribution of their music online.

For example, Beatles songs are unavailable on Apple Inc’s iTunes over concerns that the songs could be easily pirated.

When asked about plans for the digital distribution of The Beatles catalog, Jones said, “We’re still working out the details, we have no announcement to make, we have not date or any information, we’re still working on the details.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Vicki Allen