The surviving members of the band have been resistant to new technology, refusing to allow their music to be downloaded from online stores such as iTunes.
Instead, in the band’s first significant move into the digital world, fans will be able to transform into any member of the quartet and sing, drum and strum along with their favourite Beatles songs.
Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono-Lennon and Olivia Harrison have given their blessing to the new game. They will all be involved in its development and design before it is launched sometime next year.
The exclusive deal between MTV Games, owners of the Rock Band franchise, and Apple Corps, the company established by the Beatles to oversee their business interests, was announced yesterday. Jeff Jones, chief executive of Apple Corps, said that there were still no plans to make Beatles music available for digital download.
“The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of the Beatles and their music,” Sir Paul said. “I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out.”
The two surviving members of the band have been cautious about iTunes, fearing that digital downloads can be pirated too easily. In the past they have dabbled with offering streams of an album from their website and running trailers on YouTube.
The creators of the game would not disclose its title or its price. They did say that it will be a standalone game, not an add-on to Rock Band or Rock Band 2, which was released this month. Even so, Rock Band musical instruments will be compatible with the game.
Analysts estimate that the market for music-based video games, such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero, are worth about $1.2 billion (£730 million) in the US alone. The music download market was worth about $2 billion in America last year.
“The Beatles continue to evolve with the passing of time and how wonderful that the Beatles’ legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerised world we live in,” Starr said. “Let the games commence.”