If you’re a console gamer, or hang out with someone who is, you’ve probably noticed that the little plastic guitar in the corner of the room has been collecting dust, and with the recent death of the Guitar Hero franchise, it’s apparent that publisher Activision has also noticed. Some are calling this the beginning of the end for rhythm games, while others are scolding Activision for slowly killing the genre by oversaturating the market with titles, and I’m sure there are some who are happy to see the franchise go. As a longtime fan of rhythm games, I wonder what’s going to happen next. Will the rhythm game genre continue to decline into oblivion, and if it does, what will that mean for other music games like Rock Band?

Little Plastic Guitars

When the original Guitar Hero released back in 2005, I didn’t think much of it; I think I fiddled with a display guitar at Wal-Mart, thinking “wow, I can kind of play ‘Smoke on the Water’…neat.” Two years later, I finally took an interest, bought Guitar Hero 2, and spent the next year pushing that plastic guitar to its breaking point. I was consumed (admittedly) with high scores, star rankings, and playing the “Sweet Child of Mine” opening perfectly. I loved the game, but at the same time, it was something I avoided in conversation. I did this because:

1. Explaining how the game works and how cool it is to get a perfect score to people who don’t have any experience with the genre only serves to make me look like a nerd.
2. After explaining the game, people’s response always seemed to be the same – “why don’t you just play a real guitar?”

You can't be this cool with a real guitar

Unfortunately, there is no good way to respond to that question; even thinking about it makes me wonder how much time I COULD have devoted to learning a real instrument. Despite this, I realize now that I got something much more out of Guitar Hero. Besides introducing /reintroducing me to a slew of bands that I still listen to today, the game taught me to appreciate the skill and dedication those bands brought to the art of music. In short, Guitar Hero made me want to become a connoisseur of rock.

Concerning Activision


To think that future gamers wouldn’t be inspired to discover music in the same way I was because the rhythm genre is in a fatal decline is pretty depressing, but I don’t think that is what’s happening. A quick look at Guitar Hero’s Wikipedia page and it’s evident that Activision released far too many titles in a small time span (averaging 3 title releases per year). With that kind of output, developer Neversoft only had time to slap a new coat of paint on an old title, apply a new soundtrack, and maybe add a new gimmick to the gameplay; no real advancements or significant improvements were ever made. Among these releases were band specific titles that featured music from specific artists like Aerosmith and Metallica. I’ve always regarded theses title as a bad direction for the genre for two reasons:

1. It was an obvious move by the game publisher to cash in on a band’s popularity (not to mention the artist cashing in on the game’s popularity).
2. The notion of releasing a rhythm game with only one flavor of music goes against the social nature of the game. Guitar Hero is a party game, and became popular in part because it offered a variety of music that everybody could enjoy.

 

Did Van Halen really need their own game?

This isn’t the first franchise Activision has done this to either, the Tony Hawk game series has been releasing a title per year for nearly a decade. During this time, the series has followed the familiar model of inserting a new gimmick into the gameplay, changing around a few things, maybe making a few improvements, and calling it a new game, and a steady decline in sales have been the result.

Enough about Activision though, the Guitar Hero series is gone from the near future and nothing is going to change that. What fans of the genre should focus on now is what the future holds for rhythm games. The fans should focus on Rock Band.

Rock Band

I may have lied a little earlier, the rhythm game genre is in a state of decline, but it’s nothing terminal. More or less, the genre’s market is simply shrinking back from its wildly popular days to something more in line with other video game genres. For the Rock Band series, this means that when the market finally levels off they will be without a competitor, and free to grow because of that.

In some ways, the emergence of Rock Band contributed to Guitar Hero’s death; namely, the introduction of new instruments and the creation of the Rock Band Music Store. Most importantly, the game has always been about choice. Don’t like to play guitar? Try the drums or the vocals. Want to craft your own library of music? Go on the RB Store and choose from thousands of songs. It is also important to note that Harmonix recognizes that the market is changing; that people aren’t satisfied with fake instruments any more. That’s why in the franchise’s latest installment the support for real instruments has been added, make it more of an instrument trainer than an actual game for those who choose (I’m learning drums).

Final Thoughts

Guitar Hero was fun while it lasted, but maybe its demise was for the best. Perhaps now the artists and bands who were holding out for their own exclusive game will recognize that those days are coming to an end and put their music on the RB Store instead. Maybe too the developers and die-hard fans of Guitar hero will try Rock Band, discover what it has to offer, and in turn contribute to its growth and success.

The Author

Colter Palen

Colter Palen

Behold! The callused conceptions of a conceded mind whose depths have been caressed and convexed into contours unknown. It is I, the confused young coot with a carefully concocted conspiracy to take this corroded circle to the black chasms of my consciousness. There is no need to cower though, for I have contrived this coup to be an occurrence without cringing or crying. It will be a cause for celebration, an occasion and a careless campaign. So come and chart close behind your carnivorous corporal down this chilling crypt and consider not what you construe as inconsequential. Before crossing though, my comrades and cohorts, before we chance this correspondence, let me introduce myself, and I must confess that it is considerably copacetic to meet you. My name is Colter.

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12 Comments

  1. Blackthunder01
    March 4, 2011 at 11:38 am — Reply

    I’ll confess that I never liked Guitar Hero. I felt like their Guitars didn’t feel just right (despite the dip = star power feature). My friend has DJ Hero and Band Hero too. (Sadly he JUST bought them right before this announcment.) Don’t care for DJ but I do like the drumming on Band Hero (although the music selection leaves MUCH to be desired).

    I’m a Rock Band guy. I’m happy to see Guitar Hero go and I’m happier than that to see that Harmonix has decided to become an independant publisher for Rock Band. With the somewhat recent release of Rock Band 3 and the news of Harmonix’s liberation, I have a feeling that even if the genre is slowing to a crawl (as some fear), it won’t die. Harmonix is going to make a go of it for a while at least so that means more goodies for me to play with. :)

    I still have Rock Band parties at my house about once ever 2 weeks but then again I finally bought the game after years of wanting it. (I got Rock Band Special Edition for $80! Now, I see it for $170. Score!) I don’t think the genre is dying. I think it’s changing. First there was Simon (handheld toy), then Parappa the Rappa and Um Jammer Lammy, then Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Now … ? Rock Band has at least positioned themselves so that they can change with the future. Guitar Hero was too set in their ways as I saw it.

    (P.s. – has anyone tried the Rock Band guitar that’s a real guitar? It’s a little more expensive than I can swing right now but I REALLY want to try it.)

  2. March 4, 2011 at 11:51 am — Reply

    I think your observation that the genre is simply leveling off to normal is dead on. Rythm games aren’t dead, they’re still making Bop-its after all.

    • Blackthunder01
      March 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm — Reply

      LOL! :)

      And Mr. Microphone. :)

      (Seriously though, maybe a game with auto-tune would be cool as an unlockable.)

    • Damascus
      April 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm — Reply

      Plus, there are a bunch of different rhythm games in Japan that are still doing really well (Pop n Groove or somesuch being one of them). I think it’ll slow for a while and then something else will revolutionize it again and then people will be all about that too. What I’m waiting for are the gloves that you wear all day long and they read your surroundings and if you punch some random person you’ll get a set amount of points depending on if they’re a man, woman, handicapped, a Priest, more points if they’re a giant douche that deserved it. If your points got uploaded to the leaderboards right away, that’s when anarchy takes over the world.

  3. Camoren Jennings
    March 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm — Reply

    Little tidbit, I saw an advert looking to recruit a marketing professional to handle all the promotion of GH in the UK.

    When indicating the atributes they wanted from candidates, an interest in Music and Videogames was optional…

    This is not a product that you can understand properly without those two things.

    Regarding the games:
    There is not a lot between the standard guitar controllers, but I have also used the drums from both franchises and have to give it to GH for the cymbal set-up (did they add those in later RB versions?). Though both could do with a footpedal that is a little more user friendly.

    I loved the Keytar they released at christmas on RB and applaud them for building in the full keyboard for more advanced use.

    • Blackthunder01
      March 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm — Reply

      I agree that Band Hero’s drums are nicer. I don’t know if it’s because of the cymbals or if it’s a combination of softer pads and the way the patterns displayed on the screen. Rock Band drums have a lot of fast repetition while Band Hero tends to mix it up and give you something a little less hecktic and repetitious.

      (I do believe Rock Band sells Cymbals seperately now.)

      • Colt
        March 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm — Reply

        They do, the standard 4 drum/ 1 petal setup can be expanded with 3 symbols and a second petal. Pro drums on RB3 are crazy hard.

  4. Colt
    March 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    Also, ION sells the absolute best drum kits for gaming. They’re way expensive though.

  5. ClubberLang6
    March 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm — Reply

    personally, i like karaoke revolution games. they rock!!!!

  6. March 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm — Reply

    I’m definitely with you on this. I think the ‘craze’ is over and it’s ready to slow down to a normal pace.

  7. bob
    March 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm — Reply

    I didn’t get into the Guitar Hero thing until near the end.But before I had picked 1 up I had picked up something more up my alley:Singstar.Available for PS2 and PS3 I had alot of fun.I only got my PS3 last year so when I bought a Singstar Queen game,it gave me access to the Playstaion Store.Which I can pick and choose from over 1200 songs without ever having to buy another disc.
    A very entertaining way to spend time with friends,especially if there is alcohol involved!

  8. Dan Hunter
    March 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm — Reply

    Fads come a go. For me Harmonix are to be applauded for bringing proper music to the masses (none of this autotuned music mislabeled r&b). In the video extras of rockband, their love of music shines through- this is evident in their products ranging from the original Guitar Hero to Rockband3. Yes Activision have drained their teat dry but the innovations of the keyboard, harmonies, pro instruments in RB3 means there’s still life in those legs. Plus Harmonix and Rockband inspired me to pick up a proper guitar and start taking lessons at the age of 36 \m/

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