Ubisoft is bringing its guitar-learning game Rocksmith to iPad


In the late aughts to early twenty-tens, music games were the video game genre.

For a brief period of time, Activition’s Guitar Hero series embodied the epitome of popular culture, closely followed by its main competitor, Harmonix’s Rock Band franchise. Unfortunately for developers working in the space, market saturation caused the genre to die what some would argue was an untimely death.

While we’ve seen recent revival attempts with Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4, neither title came close to reaching the sales numbers or critical acclaim their predecessors once achieved. While some may have forgotten, towards the finale of the music genre’s stint as the video game industry’s go-to type of game, Ubisoft quietly released Rocksmith, a clever title that straddled the line between music game and educational tool.

Although the franchise has fallen from the spotlight over the last few years, Ubisoft has maintained support for the game through a consistent stream of new songs. The French developer has now decided to bring the Rocksmith series back out of retirement and port it to the iPad, in hopes of capturing a wider audience for the game.

Players will still need to own an iPad, as well as a guitar, in order to play the game, but Ubisoft has made a number of tweaks to Rocksmith’s formula in order to make it easier for players to pick up and play the title.

rocksmith connection screenshot

Unlike previous versions of Rocksmith, which required a specific cable to connect the guitar to either the Xbox 360, PS3 or PC, the new iPad iteration of the game includes a mode that’s compatible with acoustic guitars thanks to the microphone built directly into Apple’s tablet. Even tuning can be performed via the mic to ensure note accuracy while playing.

“We met with a lot of skepticism. A lot of people saying ‘there’s no way that could possibly work,’ ‘there’s no way it can detect the way I’m playing when you say it can,’ ‘there’s no way I can actually learn.’ But people have learned. We flew them out to San Francisco for a big concert last year,” said Jarred McAdams, an associate game designer working on the project at Ubisoft.

McAdams feels that because Rocksmith is available on a different, mobile and arguably more accessible platform now, the game has the potential to reach a wider audience.

rocksmith gif

“We have very good data that tells us that ‘yes,’ people learn doing this. So letting people try it and get over that initial hump of skepticism and resistance, it’s like ‘oh yea, this would really work, I would love to have this experience with a song that I love,'” said McAdams.

The classic electric guitar mode that requires the instrument to be connected via USB (any 1/4-inch 6.3mm to USB cable works), is also still present in the tablet version of Rocksmith.

Other changes to this new mobile version of the title, include Ubisoft stripping out the game’s background animations in order to get it running smoothly on the iPad. The chord interface with clear visual indicators to help players learn as they go, however, is still present in the game.

rocksmith developer

McAdams says that the most significant adjustment his team needed to make to the console version of Rocksmith when bringing the game to iPad was the game’s user interface (UI).

“It’s pretty different in how you navigate through the app, how lists work…,” said Jarred McAdams, explaining that apart from translating the game’s menus to work with a touchscreen, bringing Rocksmith to mobile was a relatively seamless process.

Ubisoft has also opted for a free-to-play route with Rocksmith for iPad, giving players basic songs like Amazing Grace, Ode to Joy and When the Saints Go Marching In for free, and charging a price per song. Individual song prices are set at $2.99 USD while themed packs cost $7.99 USD and typically include three to five songs (Canadian pricing hasn’t been revealed yet).

Unlike other free-to-play titles, however, the free version of the game doesn’t feature frustrating ads, a complicated subscription system or a time limit. Furthermore, all 80 lessons are included in this new version of Rocksmith.

rocksmith guitar

On top of the free stock songs, McAdams also mentions that the free version of the game also includes a variety of lessons designed to help the player improve specific guitar skills. Moving forward, Ubisoft plans to release three to five songs per week.

From a community perspective, Elliot Rudner, the founder of The Riff Repeater, a Toronto-based Rocksmith fan site, says that while some may not realize it, there’s still a vibrant community of players focused on Rocksmith.

“People have said that so far 2017 as a whole, the songs that they’re putting out, because it’s now a well-established thing that Rocksmith actually works, they’re [Ubisoft] nailing it with amazing content. The quality of life improvements with the remastered update for the console version also brought people back to the game,” said Rudner.


The iPad version of Rocksmith is available in the Canadian iOS App Store for free. When the soft launch is over and the full version of the game is released, Ubisoft says that game will also come to iPhones.

Unfortunately for Android fans, Ubisoft says that it has no plans to bring the game Google’s operating system.