Following Harmonix's announcement of Rock Band 3, due to rival Activision's recently revealed Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii as the essential end-of-year music game, half a dozen gaming news sites have published reports on Rock Band 3's exciting new features and accessories.

Among them were Giant Bomb, Kotaku, and Destructoid, but it was USA Today's Game Hunters column that opened proceedings, leading with a video showing off a prototype for the game's new keyboard controller.

The 25-key instrument has a MIDI output, meaning that it can be used not only with the game itself but also with music-making software on PCs and Macs. On easy mode, approximations are still allowed, but when ramping the difficulty (or realism), players will learn how to reproduce their favorite songs in a way that replicates an accurate musical score much more closely.

Project director Daniel Sussman told them, "You are playing notes on the keyboard that if you were to step away from the game and were to play on a real piano, they would be the right notes."

Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann described his hands-on time as delivering "killer" first impressions and, in a marked contrast to general trends seen in annual game releases, noted that "the additions in Rock Band 3 appear to be totally worthy of an all-new piece of software."

Sussman told Nick Chester of Destructoid, "We're trying to take gameplay in a way that actually pushes people to genuine musicianship." That said, the designers plan to accomodate players of different skill levels more comprehensively than before.

There's also a new guitar controller based on the Fender Mustang. It has six working strings on the fretboard, extending from the bridge to where a working electric's neck pickup would be, and 102 depressable buttons on the 17-fret neck.

"While it's doubtful that the guitar controller will, alone, teach anyone how to play the guitar, it looks like a solid learning tool," concluded Kotaku's Michael McWhertor, "Since it will accurately map individual notes and chords, players can learn the basic chord progression and riffs of their favorite songs."

The next step up is a fully-functioning (and as yet unpriced) instrument to be made by the famous electric guitar manufacturer Fender. Like the Rock Band 3 keyboard it works as a guitar in its own right, but is also prepped for video gaming, with built in sensors tracking finger position and string movement.

Rock Band 3 is due out late in 2010, with an expected price of $59.99 / €59.99. The keyboard accessory is $79.99 or $129.99 bundled with the game. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is dated for September 20 at $59.99 / €59.99, $99.99 / €99.99 with a guitar accessory, or $179.99 for the Super Bundle (guitar and drums).

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