clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rock Band 4 and instrument controllers playable on PS5, Xbox Series X

The beat goes on, even on next-gen consoles — DLC songs included

a woman rocks out on a black guitar in Rock Band 4 while a man sings in the background Image: Harmonix
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are backward-compatible with pretty much the entire Xbox One and PlayStation 4 libraries, respectively — and rhythm game fans will be delighted to hear that Rock Band 4 is included in the list on both next-generation consoles, developer Harmonix announced Tuesday.

Rock Band 4 and all DLC will work on the next generation consoles day 1,” said Harmonix. “We believe previously supported instruments should work as expected.”

Harmonix has always described the Rock Band franchise as a platform, and it appears that Microsoft’s and Sony’s commitments to it-just-works backward compatibility have made it easier for the studio to uphold that philosophy. Rock Band 4, which launched in October 2015 on PS4 and Xbox One, allowed players to carry forward songs from the Rock Band titles on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (as well as additional tracks they’d purchased). But for a number of reasons, including the vagaries of music licensing agreements, the process was complicated and had a lot of caveats. This time around, that won’t be a problem.

“All DLC currently available for download will also work on new consoles,” said Harmonix. “No messy generation transition this time, it’s the same DLC!”

The studio added that existing Rock Band 4 save data will be compatible with PS5 and Xbox Series X, so you can pick up where you left off with your career mode progress. Microsoft syncs Xbox One save files automatically via the cloud; Sony offers cloud storage only to PlayStation Plus members, so PS4 owners who don’t have a subscription will have to manually transfer saves via USB storage.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t previously brought songs from older games into Rock Band 4, you’ve lost your chance — the song export licenses for Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Lego Rock Band, Green Day: Rock Band, and Rock Band Blitz have all expired at this point. (The Beatles: Rock Band has never been available for export.)

The only exception is Rock Band 3, which remains available at this time — but not for much longer. Owners of that game have until Dec. 1 to export the 83 songs on the Rock Band 3 disc into Rock Band 4, Harmonix announced recently. Doing so requires a $14.99 purchase from Rock Band 4’s in-game store.

As for instrument controllers, Harmonix said, “Generally, if it worked on Rock Band 4 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it should work on next-gen.” The company tested a bunch of hardware with Rock Band 4 on Xbox Series X and PS5; the list of controllers that Harmonix can guarantee as being compatible goes back as far as the Rock Band 2 drums on PS3; the Rock Band 2 Fender Stratocaster guitar on both PS3 and Xbox 360; and the Ion Drum Rocker on Xbox 360 (requires PDP’s discontinued Wired Legacy Adapter) and PS3. See Harmonix’s blog post for the full list of 18 compatible peripherals. Harmonix noted that other controllers that it hasn’t tested may work with the new consoles, including those for non-Harmonix titles like Guitar Hero.

Note that you’ll still have to rely on whatever connection method you previously used. That means that Xbox players will need to dig out their Legacy Game Controller Adapter — which is impossible to find these days, unless you’re willing to pay an exorbitant sum on the secondary market — in order to use pre-Rock Band 4 instrument controllers. PlayStation players will be able to use older wireless controllers only if they still have the USB dongles for them, while Rock Band 4 instruments will continue to connect via Bluetooth to the PS5. (Rock Band 4 instruments connect natively to the Xbox One, like any other licensed wireless controllers, so they’ll work just fine on Xbox Series X.)

If you have any wired instruments lying around, those for PlayStation, but not Xbox, are compatible with Rock Band 4, so they should still work with the game on next-gen consoles. As for singing, Harmonix said that “any USB mic should still work,” although because the PS5’s DualSense controller has a built-in microphone, the console defaults to that input when playing Rock Band 4.

Multiplayer gaming is also compatible across generations. PS4 owners will be able to rock out in Rock Band 4 with people playing the game on PS5, and the same applies between Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Harmonix said next-gen players can expect “a pretty sizable performance increase on both consoles, especially with load times,” which applies “even with large library sizes.”

The Xbox Series X and Series S will launch worldwide on Nov. 10, two days before the PlayStation 5 debuts in North America, Japan, and a few other places. Sony will release the PS5 on Nov. 19 in Europe and the rest of the world.

Update: Asked for further details on Rock Band 4’s next-gen performance improvements, a Harmonix representative told Polygon, “The biggest performance increases are going to be around loading times, which players with larger libraries will definitely appreciate. We didn’t boost resolution or the frame rate.”

As for the chances of renewed production of the Mad Catz or PDP legacy adapters, the spokesperson said that Harmonix has “no new hardware to announce today.”

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.