Guitar Hero Laid to Rest

In: Articles by Anthony McGill

17 Feb 2011

Well, we told you so, Activision.

Just as they have slowly beaten the Tony Hawk franchise to death, Activision has literally driven Guitar Hero into the ground. It was bound to happen eventually. I guess no one hired an economist to tell him how saturation affects the market.

Activision stated:

“At the same time, due to continued declines in the music genre, the company will disband Activision Publishing’s Guitar Hero business unit and discontinue development on its Guitar Hero game for 2011.”

The main concern is how this will affect future music titles. Will Rock Band follow suit, or will Harmonix come up with an innovative hook to keep us interested? The music genre seems too new to die off this early. It is possible that if we just give music games some breathing room and spread out releases, maybe we can give the developers enough time to change things up.

Activision also noted:

“These decisions are based on the desire to focus on the greatest opportunities that the company currently has to create the world’s best interactive entertainment experiences.”

Best interactive experiences?

What’s next; the death of Call of Duty? I understand why Activision continues to pump out release after release — it sells. If there’s a demand for it, keep it coming, right? But where does it end? Each Call of Duty title sells exponentially more than the previous, but that momentum can’t last forever. At some point, they will hit a wall, and the Treyarch and Infinity Ward shift between releases isn’t helping matters. If Activision doesn’t learn from its mistakes, it will put itself into a never-ending loop of successful starts that ultimately end in failures.

Activision’s public-relations faceman Dan Amrich posted on his blog:

“For a while there I couldn’t drown out the cries of gamers on forums, blogs, and Twitter saying GH should take some time off, and from all appearances, that’s what this is. Step back, let it breathe for a while, don’t make any major plans, and see what happens in the future. I’m very okay with that.”

Will there be a Guitar Hero comeback in the next few years? Personally, I could see it happening. While games like Just Dance 2 and Dance Central have swept away those who would rather dance than play an instrument, there will always be the DragonForce kids posting videos to Youtube as well as fans of rock and metal who just want their guitar.

So what do you think? What is the future of other music titles like Rock Band? What is to be expected from Activision’s other franchises, and will there be a Guitar Hero comeback?

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2 Responses to Guitar Hero Laid to Rest



February 21st, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I think if you’re looking for the root cause of companies like ATVI or ERTS being as evil as they are, look no further than Wall St, at least as it pertains to the publicly-traded companies. In that realm, companies that can show double-digit growth are fawned over by analysts and fund managers whose job performance is only as good as their latest fiscal quarter. ATVI is merely playing into their hands by taking their cash cows and milking them for all they’re worth without thinking of the developers’ burnout, the worn-out franchises or the shuttered studios that lie in their wake. Just as Edie said on the show about hating to admit axing the Guitar Hero series was the most sensible move, I hate to admit that as CEO of ATVI, Bob Kotick is doing a bang-up job insofar as his primary job is maintaining shareholder value.



February 23rd, 2011 at 11:36 pm

In an attempt to play devil’s advocate:

I believe that the market was saturated with plastic instruments and rock rhythm games in general before the release of Rock Band 3 and GH:Warriors of Rock. I also believe that apart from minor tweaks, those franchises innovated as far as they realistically could, with expensive third-party instruments, the addition of the keyboard peripheral and the drum attachments.

If those two are true, it means that even though Activision flooded the market with GH titles, the days were already numbered for rhythm action games. And that means that Kotick/Activision weren’t the primary reason for the end of the genre’s popularity. They just saw the end before everybody else and got what they could from the franchise.

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