EA has announced that Rock Band 2 will "begin shipping" in Europe on 14th November exclusively for Xbox 360 for a limited time.
The software will be released in the UK on 21st November, and the standalone bundle of new instruments will be at retail "beginning in December".
Rock Band 2 solus discs will go for GBP 49.99 / EUR 69.99 but there's no immediate word on instrument prices. The Rock Band 1 "Band in a Box" pack currently goes for GBP 99.99 on 360 and GBP 79.99 on PS3 and Wii.
To say the news comes out of the blue is to put it mildly. Yesterday EA distanced itself from the suggestion the game would be out "this side of Christmas".
But it's bad news for Activision, publisher of Guitar Hero World Tour, reviewed this week, which has yet to officially announce its release plans.
World Tour, which features its own range of instruments, is expected to hit in mid-November as well - and now that the excellent Rock Band 2, reviewed on import recently, is ready for release, it's going to be hard work for Activision to fight off the appeal of EA's decent instruments, excellent software and massive DLC archive.
As we wrote in conclusion when we took on Guitar Hero World Tour, "Were Rock Band 2 on the market today, the decision would be more difficult, as the gap between instrument quality would be reduced and the software battle would go in Rock Band 2's favour."
As well as all that DLC, the on-disc soundtrack for Rock Band 2 is over 100 deep, there's a Drum Trainer and No Fail mode for people who want to play without punishment, and it's possible to import dozens of the original Rock Band's songs for a small fee.
However, the silver lining for Activision is that Guitar Hero World Tour should be available with its instruments in mid-November and Rock Band 2's won't be around until a month later, and also that Microsoft has paid for another exclusivity period, giving it a free run on the PS3, PS2 and Wii.
For anyone who can't be arsed to wait a month on 360, or longer on the other formats, a GHWT bundle and Rock Band 2 solus disc later would be a powerful combo. No doubt it's a subject we'll dig into further as the release plans are brought into sharper focus.