Don McLean became a little more relevant to the gaming community last week. Even though another verse hasn’t been added to the already treatise of the song, the consuming public can rejoice that there won’t be any more “Guitar Hero” iterations on story shelves in the future.
Since 2007, Activision has milked this franchise bone dry and did so unabashedly and without remorse or regard to decency. The series quickly became recognizable though as soon as EA nabbed Harmonix, the original developer of the IP, the interns and B squad couldn’t quite match up the mystique or allure of the early installments. How many actual “guitar heroes” could there be in the world of music? “GH” found all of them, and then some. The series quickly degenerated into [Insert Strung-out Celebrity Name Here] and avid series fans were left to be the only ones at the party.
The death of the franchise can easily be attributed to the lack of variety and failure to capitalize on providing a quality living room experience, adaptability to online distribution and willingness to evolve. Activision made the “GH” series cookie cutter by buying the rights to certain musicians and bands, then selling a tangible copy of the product. Retail prices were high for what the savvy consumer could easily consider an expansion pack with no innovation or added value beyond the music. The first group to get this treatment was Aerosmith, which was followed by Metallica, Van Halen and then Green Day.
All the while, Harmonix developed and improved upon the “Rock Band” franchise. “RB” from the get go could not only involve up to 4 players, but you had control over the experience. The experience featured a customized band and musicians. The game featured a diverse and ever expanding library of games by releasing new songs weekly via digital distribution. EA also didn’t smother the consumer base with single band releases has perfected micro-transactions and only updated the series by making improvements such as adding instruments and becoming a teaching tool, but most importantly the series allows the consumer to keep their library of music and bring it forward with each iteration.
Business students will now be able to have a more recent case study of exploitation and example of progressing a star product into a cash cow and finally into a dog. With gaming developers looking to bridge the gap to the masses and the “GH” series was instrumental (no pun intended) in helping create a broader consumer base for the industry. Ultimately Activision’s greed won out and water down an experience that was enjoyable. I lost interest in the series after the waste of time that was “Guitar Hero 3.” That was the tipping point for me and I’m not sorry I never looked back. With the gaming community generally having the attention span of a squirrel, we’re always looking for the next great gaming experience and like arcades, light gun games, and “Dance Dance Revolution”, “Guitar Hero” will fade from our memories. Goodbye “GH”. I won’t miss you.