Beatles re-mastered CDs, video game launched
By Farah Master
LONDON (Reuters) - Fans of the Beatles queued on Wednesday to buy the band's collected works on a new set of discs and get their hands on an animated video game featuring some of the Fab Four's greatest hits .
The Beatles collection, launched worldwide on 09/09/09, is expected to dominate the charts in the United States and Britain, bringing a windfall to the group's label EMI Music and the Beatles' own company Apple Corps.
Beatles nostalgia was evident elsewhere too.
A front page cartoon in Le Monde showed France's divided opposition leaders dressed as Beatles. "It would be nice if we played the same music," says one. "All you need is love," adds another.
In Ireland, a radio station is hosting a karaoke series where people are invited to sing and play Beatles tunes on the guitar.
While the re-mastered catalog, its first overhaul since 1987, is seen appealing mainly to Beatles' fans who would appreciate subtle variations and improvements that technology has brought, most excitement surrounded MTV's video game, "The Beatles: Rock Band".
"I'm buying the game, I'm not really a big Beatles fan, I prefer much stronger music like Metallica, I just want to try the game and see how it is going to work," said Stefan Krupicki, 32, who queued for an hour at the launch at the HMV store in central London.
Developed by Harmonix Music Systems, published by Viacom Inc's MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts Inc, the game could sell 2 million units in the first month alone, according to analyst estimates.
The 14-set collection is expected to boost sales of CDs in an era where more and more songs are downloaded online and fans can pick and choose their favorite tracks.
However, the Beatles appear set to move into the digital age -- with some of their music likely to be made available as downloadable content for the game.
Fans of arguably the world's most successful pop band, with album sales of more than 600 million worldwide, have waited for years to be able to download the Beatles' coveted body of work, but have been frustrated partly by a trademark dispute.
The new music collection -- costing 180 pounds ($300) -- comprises 16 Beatles albums in stereo, with track listings and artwork as originally released in Britain, and "Magical Mystery Tour", which became part of the Beatles' core catalog when the CDs were released in 1987.
A limited mono 13 CD collection is also on sale for 200 pounds.
Allan Rouse, who oversaw the re-mastering, said improved computer software had allowed his team to improve the quality and sound of the Beatles' catalog, including through removing bad edits, electrical clicks and sibilance.
The game offers 45 songs from the band's catalog. Each member is animated in detail and real crowd noise from Beatles' performances is used.
With video game sales falling sharply in the United States, the makers of The Beatles: Rock Band are aiming to appeal to older consumers who have not yet experimented with the format but may be attracted by their love of the music.
However, Jeff Howells, a 36-year-old civil servant, said he was at the launch to get the discs.
"I'm not interested in the game, quite a few people are not I suspect. I think most people will be interested in the music. The game is just a nice little fad, I don't think it will last."
(Editing by Steve Addison)