Do you remember Guitar Hero? I sure do. If you’re reading this you probably do too because not a lot of five year old kids visit our website.
Guitar Hero broke new ground as one of the most successful game franchises of the 2000’s. When it came out in 2005 it became an instant hit and went on to release Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock all with astounding sales, earning them $1.7 billion in 2008, the high point of success for the franchise. Then it all went to hell.
Afterwards official continuations to the main Guitar Hero video game that never made as much money as their first three games were released and a huge number of spin offs focusing on specific bands, and very successful ones like The Beatles and Areosmith as well as more obscure ones, came out and flooded the market. The sales kept decreasing until it became obvious this monster that had unleashed itself onto the world was dying and so Activision decided instead of seeing it suffer any longer to pull the plug on the operation and not release any more games.
I was contemplating the absurdity of how this franchise had gone from the video game essential that every household with kids around my age (I was in middle school around the time) was guaranteed to have to an essential bargain bin game. My mind went back to when I was reading this video game review magazine that had a special section on Guitar Hero discussing if it was here to stay or it would go down the tubes. The section claiming it would go on forever claimed Guitar Hero’s success was based on the fact it centered around something timeless, music, and it was a game that anyone of any age could get into. The more cynical side claimed Guitar Hero was only successful because it was the game of the moment and people would eventually get tired of it and move on to the next big thing. Both had valid points that are reasons for the game’s eventual failure, even the one with a positive outlook.
Rhythm matching and music based games have never been popular in America. Most of them are confined to the arcade because it’s pretty novel to perform in public, which ironically is where “Guitar Hero” ended up. Now Guitar Hero as a game work just fine but it never really gives the player much of an incentive to play by themselves. All the characters are pretty stock generic rock star characters, there is no story, and you never get attached to said characters because all they do is perform and voila. Hell, I remember playing as a specific character and then I get a cut scene with some random guy. Talk about laziness. And once they began releasing as many games as they could for the sake of profit the market became stale and there was really nothing new to look forward to.
Then what about the games with well known LEGENDS? That brings me to my second point. A very sad one. Rock had been dead for some time when Guitar Hero came out and even this franchise couldn’t bring it back in style. All in all despite its success it was doomed for failure solely because rock was dying and those who initially bought it would lose interest with all the mainstream garbage coming out as for the kids following them wouldn’t even think to look at it because they wouldn’t recognized the auto tuned talentless synthetic music they’ve grown up with. Which is why they couldn’t register the sheer awesomeness of some of these games.
Now the main reason this game failed is because, well, the average person can’t enjoy it unless they’re with their friends. I remember mostly pulling out the house’s copy of Guitar Hero when friends came over and the main objective of playing alone was to impress them with mad skills once they showed up (I preferred my Nintendo games). It was a great bonding experience. However there’s only so many times kids can do something before getting tired of it. It was something that inexplicably became popular and died out like Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh, and don’t hate me for making that comparison because I know many kids who used to play it are now the kind of people that make you lament the times you live in and you know it too.
Now that doesn’t undermine the importance and greatness of this game but it is a testimony of how the video game industry is vulnerable to sudden changes in consumer tastes. If Guitar Hero had been made as a niche game it probably would’ve survived to this day, but it was made to be larger than life and lucrative, and once it didn’t meet those needs it was abandoned because when it comes to large company the bottom line is profit. Guitar Hero was a great game, and I am thankful I was able to experience it at the peak of its popularity. I can say with confidence it is one of the best music based game of all times and it will always hold a special place in my heart.