The Guitar Hero series is not dead yet, it’s just “on hiatus” says Activision. This comes as surprise news, being as that the business unit for this music series was disbanded in February. The dissolving of the unit cited a decline in the music genre of games and a desire to focus on other opportunities.
The Vice President of developer relations, Dan Winter, said: “We’re releasing products out of the vault – we’ll continue to sustain the channel, the brand won’t go away. We’re just not making a new one for next year, that’s all.” One almost hopes that they will not be coming back, if only for the fact that there is an over-saturation of music titles already out now. What was once the hottest item in stores and the desire of gift givers everywhere, the Guitar Hero series has fallen out of the limelight.
Where did Activision go wrong? Partially to blame are the numerous “spin-off” games that were focused on individual bands. Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was the first title to “expand” upon the formula of Guitar Hero III. While it did not sell as bad as other bands’ Guitar Hero games, it was heavily criticized for being too easy and for the bad motion capturing. Improvement was shown in Guitar Hero: Metallica as a result of its dedicated tribute to the band. Things then went downhill. Guitar Hero: Smash Hits was just a rehash of things you had already played, and as for Guitar Hero: Van Halen…. well I try to pretend that one does not exist.
If a flood of “expansions” was not enough to ensure the downfall of the series, it was surely the release of the Rock Band series that did it. Harmonix, former developer of early games in the Guitar Hero series, brought a whole new level of excitement onto the field. Rock Band was the latest and greatest in music based games, because it has what Guitar Hero games didn’t: more instruments. In Rock Band, you could not only play the guitar and bass but also play the drums and sing. Sensing the shift in the force, Activision released Guitar Hero: World Tour which mimicked the band mechanics and spurred the argument: Should I get Guitar Hero or Rock Band?
Both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises released a number of other versions, which drastically lost popularity and sat in the corners of stores. One of which, Band Hero, was aimed towards children or those that were not ready to rock out with the more “hardcore” songs in the other games. The Rock Band series was favored for its large catalog of downloadable songs, but the Guitar Hero series had the instruments that were decidedly more comfortable. Although the Rock Band series had a large spike in popularity over the Guitar Hero series, neither are selling very well as of late. Were music games just a silly phase?
As much as I enjoy music games (in the beginning it was Guitar Hero, now I believe Rock Band is better), enough is enough. Guitar Hero as a series may not have grown so stale if they had not released quite so many spin-off games. Rock Band’s inclusion of a superb download system ensured that it stayed ahead in the race. Despite that, music games have shown a clear decrease in popularity, and while Activision says that the Guitar Hero series is not dead, I ask: Why not? What do you think? Do you think that the series is stale and should stay in the basement (where all of your instruments have likely ended up), or do you think they can bring something new to the table?
[Images courtesy of: Activision]