Whichever way you view Guitar Hero’s success, it always ends in the same way. From the peak of its success with Guitar Hero 3 from 2007 all the way until Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock in 2010, Guitar Hero lived the rock and roll lifestyle as its depicted by some of the most famous rockstars alive today. Making your name, drawing in crowds, selling merchandise, gold records, going into overdrive, releasing poor album after poor album and eventually perishing due to an overdose. This was the way in which the Guitar Hero franchise rose and fell (in a gaming sense anyway. A game can’t take drugs).
The comparison I have made above refers to the rise and fall of Guitar hero, and most of rhythm gaming as a whole. Once the franchise began back in 2005, it was popular but not mass-market popular and the same applied to Guitar Hero 2. By the time Activision had purchased the rights to GH, they released one of the biggest selling games of all time. Guitar Hero 3 was sold in its millions. It created a revolution of “rock partys” where video game duos could rock out and become instant shredders. The gameplay was addictive and everyone wanted a piece of the Guitar Hero sensation.
After the success of the third instalment (the first game being published by Activision), many were wondering when the next instalment would appear. Soon enough World Tour had been released which also saw similar success and now featured singing and a drum kit because of the success which former GH creator Harmonix found by releasing Rock Band, a direct competitor to Guitar Hero.
Soon though, Activision was releasing game after game after game of the series, maybe a direct money maker on trying to compete with Rock Band’s impressive downloadable content on a weekly basis. That was a key difference between the two games. Both game developers knew what their community wanted. Harmonix thought of the customer and listened to them when making decisions. They wanted each game to last, which paid dividends and Guitar Hero were simply out to make money. As well as releasing occasional downloadable content, numerous games appeared on shop shelves, notably in 2009. A total of 6 games were released that year. GH: Metallica, On Tour: Modern Hits, Smash Hits, GH 5, Band Hero and Van Halen were all released within 12 months.
Many in the gaming industry believe that yearly instalments of a gaming series is too much but one every two months is screaming: “OVERSATURATION!” Rock Band had held its own and released content perfectly. By listening to the customer (as said above) they were able to satisfy a large community while maintaining a great reputation and game content and the release of two further band focused games, Beatles and Green Day Rock Band ensured that fans of two of the biggest bands on Earth were satisfied.
As Activision revealed that no further Guitar Hero’s would be made, it looked as though the door was closing on the rhythm gaming genre. By this time Rock Band 3 had been released and a lot of the hype that was created for past games was lost because of Guitar Hero’s over-enthusiasm. One of my all-time favourite games is Rock Band 2. I wanted more and more colourful notes to appear on my TV screen but, by the time RB3 was released, Guitar Hero had already released numerous games and I had had my fill of rhythm titles although I still regularly play them. For me, Guitar Hero destroyed my close relationship with a game series which I could have played for hours on end.
Even though I do still play RB3, I do not play competitively as much as I used to and instead play leisurely. I feel as though Guitar Hero made the genre so common that it no longer had that unique feel to it anymore. I had even bought a Pro-Guitar to use with RB3 which got some use but not as much as I would have liked to, although I still have it. For me, rock music rhythm games have been injured for me because of one money-grabbing series.
The future is looking up though. In late August, Harmonix is releasing an Arcade title called Rock Band: Blitz where the player can play multiple instruments all through their controller along and the game can be played along with all songs from all previous Rock Band games. This will definitely be a game I buy. On top of this though, September sees the release, in the UK, of Rocksmith. I have seen mixed reviews from critics in the States but I have two things going for me with this game. Firstly, I am eager to learn guitar and secondly, I am still interested in what’s left of the rhythm genre and what it has to offer. I am looking forward to taking my guitar playing skills to the next level and combining my love for music for my love for gaming.