Rock Band 3 is coming.

MTV Games and its development unit Harmonix hope to buck the trend of falling music game sales with the first non-artist-specific addition to the franchise in two years, expected to be released this holiday season.

The companies announced the impending release on their Facebook page, noting that partner Electronic Arts will again serve as the game’s distributor. Details remain pending, but based on past comments, a few assumptions can be made.

- First, the smart money is that Rock Band 3 won’t include new instrument controllers. MTV senior VP of electronic games and music Paul DeGooyer and MTV Networks president Van Toffler have stated that the market for the necessary plastic instrument is likely saturated, and that MTV would focus on software-only going forward.

MTV and Harmonix are also working on a Green Day specific game (called “Green Day: Rock Band” a la the Beatles version introduced last year), which Toffler, at Billboard’s Music & Money Symposium, said would likely not have Green Day branded instruments like the Beatles game did. That will affect revenues, as games bundled with instruments generally run around $120 compared to $60 for just the game.

- Also worth watching is how, or if, MTV integrates Microsoft’s new Natal motion-capture camera/controller into the game. It allows gamers to use gestures to control games—essentially turning their bodies into a controller. The Natal camera is expected to hit retail shelves this holiday season as well, and sources tell Billboard that a number of game developers are already preparing games to take advantage of the new functionality by that time, including MTV. It seems more likely that MTV and others would create a separate game dedicated to the Natal device, however.

- The music. We already know that MTV is planning to incorporate music from Jimi Hendrix in upcoming games. That could range from a Hendrix-specific title, to a Hendrix-themed downloadable content package, to inclusion in the Rock Band disc. MTV also launched the Rock Band Network this month, designed to let artists create and submit songs that fans can download to their games without having to go through a formal licensing deal. Whether MTV includes any music from that initiative into Rock Band 3 will be an interesting topic to follow.

MTV chose to spend last year dedicated to The Beatles: Rock Band rather than putting out a new version of the Rock Band franchise. It wound up being a tough year for the music games genre, with revenues dropping 50% from the year prior as enthusiasm for the category waned and the need to buy expensive new controllers faded.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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