Fallen Heroes

This is it, the end of an era… Yes, Guitar Hero is dead.

Activision announced on Wednesday that a couple of their franchises are being pulled, Guitar Hero being one of them. Isn’t it a shame that we won’t be seeing another Guitar Hero title this year?

No, not really…

I remember picking up Guitar Hero 3: Warriors of Rock a few of years ago after hearing some great things about it from friends. It took me a while to make the decision to purchase; at £75 it was a hefty outlay at the time when I should have been spending my money on something other than a miniature plastic guitar and the fact that I had never been much of a “rock” music fan, but I handed over my hard earned cash and took home my new toy. I must admit that I loved GH3; I got really into it, never to the length of buying new face plates mind you, my guitar had a name (“The Bitch” – mature, I know), I’d have friends round for a bit of co-op and I even purchased a few new tracks online. But then the novelty wore off. Three months after purchase “The Bitch” was gathering dust in the corner of my room begging to be played with. The announcement of Guitar Hero 4 as a direct competitor to Rock Band, with drums et al, meant that my guitar was going to be out of date and I didn’t want to have to buy it all again, so GH3 and The Bitch got traded in… I won’t lie, I was gutted to be getting rid of it but I didn’t see how Activision were going to move forward with the games and entice me into spending any more money on the franchise.

So, while I have some fond memories of GH3 in particular, I was never very impressed with the constant flogging of the series. That said, this seems to be the way that Activision does their business. Look at the Tony Hawk series. Tony Hawk 1 did better than expected in sales and was a pretty decent game; Tony Hawk 2 added some essentials, was well received by the critics and sold a lot. Then comes Tony Hawk 3, which is probably the best in the series after they refined the gameplay which, once again, got great reviews and the money came rolling in… then came the sequels and spin offs year after year, and the quality of the titles diminished. The Tony Hawk franchise is pretty much dead and buried; another franchise flogged to death and cast aside.

It was inevitable that Guitar Hero would be cast aside; where else is there to go with the game? You can’t expect people to pay £80 plus every year because you have made an adjustment to the peripheral required to play the game. Wouldn’t the more sensible thing have been to release a game and give it a two to three year life cycle whilst releasing a steady stream of additional tracks for fans to purchase? Add in a few new characters and environments and this would have given the studio working on the sequel time to develop a proper follow up and perhaps revolutionise the music game scene again like Rock Band did before it.

Now, I don’t pretend to know what happens inside game studios. I’m a gamer, I’m not in the industry but it is pretty obvious that innovation and creativity is not the main priority for Activision. They need to get the games out in order to make their money and, of course, it’s not just Activision. From talking to fellow gamers and reading around on forums people have reacted to the GH news saying how great it is. While I’m glad I won’t be seeing another GH title on the shelves this autumn, let’s not forget that there are also people who have lost their jobs. There are probably some fantastic talents who will not be earning any money for a while and I hope these people find a place to go where they can flex those creative muscles of theirs and create something fresh, new and innovative.

Let’s look forward shall we? What about that mightiest of all cash cows – Call of Duty? With new iterations being churned out year after year surely it will eventually go the way of Guitar Hero? It all depends how much money the titles make, so let’s see how much the next release brings, and if it doesn’t smash all known records (again) then people may start talking.

Quick men, head for that conveniently placed out of reach structure over there before Kotick cans our asses!

While I’m glad to see the back of the franchise, I will still look back with fondness at some of the great times it brought.  So here’s to Guitar Hero – the game that made grown men and women think they were a rock star if even for just a moment; the game that made me forget I was just pressing coloured buttons on a plastic toy and, most importantly… the game that introduced most of us to Dragon force.




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18 Comments

  1. Edward says:

    It’s a shame Guitar Hero went under, but after 3, 4 was essentially trying to be Rock Band and 5 was alright, if a bit too focused on challenges that took you out of the game. But still, after 14 games in 5 years I’m not surprised it got oversaturated and died.
    Of course, the fact that they’re sorting this out by putting 4 developers onto the Call of Duty franchise shows they wouldn’t know what a lesson was if they were clubbed over the head with one.

  2. FC360 says:

    I liked GH 3 however I completely sucked and only liked 1 song from it so traded it in a year later. I now have Band hero which again I suck at but I don’t want to trade it in as it was a birthday present from 2009. I’m pretty good at DJ hero but don’t play it as I found it too easy, although the highest difficulty I’ve had it to is Medium. Also you mention £80 plus every year because of an adjustment to the peripheral required to play the game, Don’t all instruments work with the newer versions of each game? I know with Rock band 3 it supports GH RB instruments but not on pro mode so I assume this is the case with all GH games too?

  3. Joe Dale says:

    Thanks for the comments guys (do you not sleep!?). I know that the previous guitars were compatible with the later games but I know for GH4 they added the touch pad / slider so to get the most out of that game you needed to have that guitar (and drums!).

    I was always a ‘medium’ player, try adding in that 5th button and there was no chance of me completing a song.

  4. Lunty g says:

    Very true words dizzle, good article – Activision take note……..pleeeeeeease!!

  5. Rook says:

    I debated whether to buy Guitar Hero II or not because it was a hefty price to buy with the guitar for someone that doesn’t listen to a lot of music but any videos I saw of it just looked so much fun. I did eventually buy it and I loved it and was eager when the sequel was announced; the GHIII controller is still my favourite of all the controllers and I have bought a few.

    I would attribute a few things leading to the demise of the franchise some of which you mentioned Joe; the frequency of the games being released and each release coming with a new peripheral. Sure, you didn’t have to buy the peripheral but it always had some new feature added in that if you wanted access to the new feature you had to have the new controller. That’s an expensive way to run a franchise, can you imagine buying a new controller everytime a new FPS game came out?

    Activision were happy to create more GH games but Harmonix wanting to create a more bandlike experience led to the companies splitting ways and Rock Band being created. Now there were two franchises releasing the same type of game and RB adding new peripherals too. Next thing you know GH are following that pattern of adding drums and microphones too and there were many new peripherals being released and not always cross compatible with the other franchise.

    Everyone likes a sequel to a franchise they enjoy and eagerly await the next game so they can get more of what they enjoyed but the fact that both games were constantly releasing new tracks via XBL/PSN meant that each new game wasn’t the only way to get that new fix. Then there’s the way GH DLC was not compatible with other GH games unlike RB (I don’t know if they have now updated that policy with later games). Then there were the band specific games which came with a lesser amount of tracks than the main games but still retailed at the the same price.

    Although GH was a brand name, the game was more a band experience so why Activision felt the need to create another game called Band Hero I do not know, maybe it wa a one off and not planned to be another seperate franchise. Then there was DJ Hero so another franchise that the company would need to be paying money to be using licensed tracks. Unless this is just a case of no more GH but Band Hero will continue.

    With GH now gone, RB have no true competitor but that doesn’t mean they should relax, they should learn a lesson from oversaturating the market otherwise they may find their franchise disappearing too.

  6. jcmurfy says:

    Well guitar hero has had its day and I think its for the best. Theres only so many times you can play the same game with small changes. Time to man up and get a real guitar I think….. RIP Guitar Hero!!

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lucinda Davis, Joe Dale. Joe Dale said: Fallen Heroes -> http://www.gaminglives.com/2011/02/12/fallen-heroes/ – written by me! Huzzah. Check it and the rest of the site out! [...]

  8. FC360 says:

    Sleep? I know not of this sleep you speak of. Ah yes you are correct they added that weird thing that I’ve never figured out what it’s for under those buttons, I have no idea what each bit of the guitar is called. I would like to see the franchise purchased by a different developer that will innovate the games and make them way better then the current ones, something like 1 big game and then a music pack every year. Since the graphics can’t really be improved there would no need to release new games so just keep adding songs to the game.

  9. LVL54Spacemonkey says:

    Does anyone else think Activision will learn nothing from how they killed GH and will promptly go on to milk the CoD franchise even more? Must be nice to have Blizzards money backing you up.

  10. blucey says:

    Phew! I’m glad this sad chapter of gaming is over. I’d sell my GH shit but posting it will be CHORE.

  11. MrCuddleswick says:

    I don’t think we have to worry about the Call of Duty series going anywhere for a while – the sales are staggering, and even if they were halved the publisher would still turn a huge profit.

  12. clackyd says:

    GH3 was probably the only game I kept hold of longer than 3 months, but GH was timeless and brilliant for games nights… Cant say im bothered that they wont make another one because they are all pretty much the same. Good read JD

  13. Lee says:

    I think if they could of got the dlc right with guitar hero (and rock band) they both wouldn’t of died the death that they have. Once somebody had the hardware there was no need for a new full priced retail disc every year and new plastic crap every year. Ultimately it was the cost that killed it, I think the tracks cost to much and sometimes you’d play them and even though they were good songs if it wasn’t fun it put you off buy anymore.
    Shame to see any franchise go but maybe it has had it’s day, maybe kinect and move are the new party games?

  14. MarkuzR says:

    maybe kinect and move are the new party games?

    You’ve clearly never played Spin The Bottle dood.

  15. MarkuzR says:

    I have Guitar Hero III. Got it at Christmas when it came out and I played it through to the end of the easy level on the same day… then I bought a couple of No Doubt tracks and one MUSE track… and never played it again. It just… I dunno… it does nothing for me whatsoever. It’s alien to me as a guitarist, and everything just feels wrong because I know that my fingers are going to all the wrong positions and it’s made worse when it’s songs that I’m familiar with and already know how to play. I get that it’s a smart game, and that it comes from a very innovative genre (although I much prefer Boom Boom Rocket, believe it or not) but it’s just not for me.

    I’m not GLAD that it’s gone, but I’m certainly not going to shed any tears. Welcome by the way ;)

  16. Lorna says:

    Never played them really but for a quick go on someone else’s but the loss of jobs is the saddest thing here I think. Shame that Acti couldn’t take a more measured approach to the franchise and release the games at a slower rate. This seems to be a growing trend however, with another Assassin’s Creed game set for this year and almost yearly COD titles now. A lot of franchises will burn out quickly or diminish in quality if it continues which is a real shame. Good games should be nurtured.

  17. Jace says:

    Nice piece (oooer). Being one of those idiot early adopters, I actually bought the NTSC original Guitar Hero on PS2 about a year before it came out here, and was blown away. I’d already cut my teeth on Konami’s Guitar Freaks, but Guitar Hero had such a nice flow to it, and it was nice to move away from all that JPop. It’s also the only game to ever inspire me to buy a Bad Company CD. I stuck with the GH series up to number three, but have to agree, the constant themed issues and yearly updates weakened the brand to the point of indifference.

    Now the rumour is that Activision are going to buy Take 2 and Rockstar. Cue yearly updates of GTA and Red Dead. Take every title us gamers hold dear and abuse them till they mean nothing to us. Well done Activision, you’ve come a long way since Pitfall.

  18. Samuel says:

    Nice article. I entirely agree. I got Guitar Hero 3 with its guitar when it came out, on the PS2, along with the first two games. And I enjoyed them a lot for about two months, playing them in the living room with my sister and her boyfriend and causing a great deal of hilarity for my mother, who saw me rocking out with an undersized plastic guitar as the funniest thing ever.

    After that, I got an Xbox 360, and I didn’t want to buy another guitar, I had nowhere to put it and no money to afford it. I also would have lost access to all the tracks from the first three games unless I paid for them all over again, and even then some would be missing, mostly from the first game. I wasn’t doing it. And that was the end of my personal experiences with Guitar Hero.

    I’ve looked again from time to time at the franchise and mostly been dismayed. To be honest, I’m not that enthused about Rock Band either. It’s not new enough. It’s a cash cow. I’ve lost interest.

    Not remotely sorry to see Guitar Hero go. Wish a few other dead horses would cease being flogged and vanish as well.

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