"Why Are We Walking Away from Guitar Hero Instead of Trying to Reinvent it?"

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Posted by patrickklepek (3069 posts) -

Like last week's Call of Duty story, that headline is ripped from an Activision memo, word-for-word.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has been the best-selling video game this past generation, topping every Call of Duty game and Nintendo's exercise behemoth, Wii Fit. Yet, back in February, Activision announced the closing of their Guitar Hero Business Unit, a section of the company dedicated solely to operating the Guitar Hero franchise. It's not news that music games have sharply declined after Guitar Hero III and Rock Band, but Activision's decision felt like the end of a chapter in gaming history. 

After the news was made public, Activision distributed two memos to its employees discussing the decision to move on from Guitar Hero, why Call of Duty wouldn't become Guitar Hero (published as part of a story earlier last week) and the reasons driving the cancellation of True Crime: Hong Kong. Those memos were passed onto me, and while Activision doesn't dig as deep into Guitar Hero's newfound dormancy, it's interesting to read Activision's own internal posturing about the franchise.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock proved the series' high point. 
== TEASER == "We are closing the stand-alone Guitar Hero Business Unit," wrote Activision COO Thomas Tippl in one of the memos. "Because of significant declines in the music genre for the second year in a row, we have made the decision to close the stand-alone Guitar Hero Business Unit and discontinue development on the previously announced 2011 game."

Activision was actively developing a new Guitar Hero to be released in 2011, following Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, a more story-oriented take on Guitar Hero that didn't receive the warmest reception. It's unclear what direction the next Guitar Hero would've taken, but one could assume note highways.

"Despite our very high-quality releases last year," added Tippl, "including the 90+ [Metacritic] rated DJ Hero 2, the innovative Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, as well as a 90+ rated release from our competitor [Harmonix's Rock Band 3], demand for peripheral-based music games has continued to decline at a dramatic pace. Given the considerable licensing and manufacturing costs, we simply cannot continue to profitably make these games based on current consumer demand."

That's the larger story of the current state of peripheral-based music games: everyone was suffering. If Rock Band 3 had been a massive success, Activision may have chalked Guitar Hero's decline to being outpaced by the original developers of Guitar Hero. That's not to say Activision would have stayed the course with the next Guitar Hero, but there was evidence the current formula wasn't going anywhere. Gamers and critics still dig the games, hence some of the high scores, but the mainstream audience has drifted.

"Guitar Hero quickly reached incredible heights, but then began a steady decline," said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg in a separate memo. "Call of Duty, on the other hand, has steadily grown every single year of its seven-year existence. Guitar Hero, was a new genre which had incredible appeal, but which had not stood the test of time. Call of Duty exists in a genre—first person shooters—that has shown remarkable staying power and wide appeal over a period of decades. "

Most assumed this decision meant Activision was done with Guitar Hero, ready to walk away entirely. 

Hirshberg presented himself with that very question, too. 

"Why are we walking away from Guitar Hero instead of trying to reinvent it?" reads part of the memo.

At first, Hirshberg reiterates what Tippl already said: music games built on the former winning formula aren't selling. More importantly, he argued this shift had nothing to do with the quality of the games.

"The most compelling reason for this decision is the fact that so many high quality games have suffered the same fate in the marketplace. DJ Hero 2 received a remarkable 92 rating," he said. "Guitar Hero, Warriors of Rock was a great game with several innovations for the category. Our key competitor, Rock Band 3, also achieved a 90+ rating and yet none of these games succeeded in finding an audience. This is not a matter of lack of quality or poor execution. This is simply a matter of the market running out of appetite for this genre."

Seems like Activision just complimented Rock Band 3. Well, sort of. 

Some DLC is still being released, but expect that to be phased out.

In any case, while one could assume the end of Guitar Hero, Activision has maintains this is not necessarily the case. What form Guitar Hero will take if it returns is an open question. Critics have argued Guitar Hero's demise was the result of oversaturation. Since Guitar Hero in 2005, there have been 11 different Guitar Hero games. That does not count DJ Hero or the portable and arcade editions.

"The Guitar Hero brand name remains strong," said Hirshberg, "and perhaps after a cooling period we will revisit the franchise with fresh innovation. But innovation will take time and a deep reconsideration. We can’t change the tire while riding the bike. And for now, there is simply no evidence that continuing down the path of making the games currently in production would lead to success."

Brands are incredibly important to publishers. It assures them there's a built-in audience for a product. Take next year's Prey 2, a game very loosely associated with the original, in most respects. Prey was already a thing and that Prey 2 can exist means that Prey 1 had to exist. That's the basis of a brand.

If I were a betting man, I'd say Guitar Hero's coming back. I just don't know what it'll look like. 
Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3069 posts) -

Like last week's Call of Duty story, that headline is ripped from an Activision memo, word-for-word.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has been the best-selling video game this past generation, topping every Call of Duty game and Nintendo's exercise behemoth, Wii Fit. Yet, back in February, Activision announced the closing of their Guitar Hero Business Unit, a section of the company dedicated solely to operating the Guitar Hero franchise. It's not news that music games have sharply declined after Guitar Hero III and Rock Band, but Activision's decision felt like the end of a chapter in gaming history. 

After the news was made public, Activision distributed two memos to its employees discussing the decision to move on from Guitar Hero, why Call of Duty wouldn't become Guitar Hero (published as part of a story earlier last week) and the reasons driving the cancellation of True Crime: Hong Kong. Those memos were passed onto me, and while Activision doesn't dig as deep into Guitar Hero's newfound dormancy, it's interesting to read Activision's own internal posturing about the franchise.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock proved the series' high point. 
== TEASER == "We are closing the stand-alone Guitar Hero Business Unit," wrote Activision COO Thomas Tippl in one of the memos. "Because of significant declines in the music genre for the second year in a row, we have made the decision to close the stand-alone Guitar Hero Business Unit and discontinue development on the previously announced 2011 game."

Activision was actively developing a new Guitar Hero to be released in 2011, following Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, a more story-oriented take on Guitar Hero that didn't receive the warmest reception. It's unclear what direction the next Guitar Hero would've taken, but one could assume note highways.

"Despite our very high-quality releases last year," added Tippl, "including the 90+ [Metacritic] rated DJ Hero 2, the innovative Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, as well as a 90+ rated release from our competitor [Harmonix's Rock Band 3], demand for peripheral-based music games has continued to decline at a dramatic pace. Given the considerable licensing and manufacturing costs, we simply cannot continue to profitably make these games based on current consumer demand."

That's the larger story of the current state of peripheral-based music games: everyone was suffering. If Rock Band 3 had been a massive success, Activision may have chalked Guitar Hero's decline to being outpaced by the original developers of Guitar Hero. That's not to say Activision would have stayed the course with the next Guitar Hero, but there was evidence the current formula wasn't going anywhere. Gamers and critics still dig the games, hence some of the high scores, but the mainstream audience has drifted.

"Guitar Hero quickly reached incredible heights, but then began a steady decline," said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg in a separate memo. "Call of Duty, on the other hand, has steadily grown every single year of its seven-year existence. Guitar Hero, was a new genre which had incredible appeal, but which had not stood the test of time. Call of Duty exists in a genre—first person shooters—that has shown remarkable staying power and wide appeal over a period of decades. "

Most assumed this decision meant Activision was done with Guitar Hero, ready to walk away entirely. 

Hirshberg presented himself with that very question, too. 

"Why are we walking away from Guitar Hero instead of trying to reinvent it?" reads part of the memo.

At first, Hirshberg reiterates what Tippl already said: music games built on the former winning formula aren't selling. More importantly, he argued this shift had nothing to do with the quality of the games.

"The most compelling reason for this decision is the fact that so many high quality games have suffered the same fate in the marketplace. DJ Hero 2 received a remarkable 92 rating," he said. "Guitar Hero, Warriors of Rock was a great game with several innovations for the category. Our key competitor, Rock Band 3, also achieved a 90+ rating and yet none of these games succeeded in finding an audience. This is not a matter of lack of quality or poor execution. This is simply a matter of the market running out of appetite for this genre."

Seems like Activision just complimented Rock Band 3. Well, sort of. 

Some DLC is still being released, but expect that to be phased out.

In any case, while one could assume the end of Guitar Hero, Activision has maintains this is not necessarily the case. What form Guitar Hero will take if it returns is an open question. Critics have argued Guitar Hero's demise was the result of oversaturation. Since Guitar Hero in 2005, there have been 11 different Guitar Hero games. That does not count DJ Hero or the portable and arcade editions.

"The Guitar Hero brand name remains strong," said Hirshberg, "and perhaps after a cooling period we will revisit the franchise with fresh innovation. But innovation will take time and a deep reconsideration. We can’t change the tire while riding the bike. And for now, there is simply no evidence that continuing down the path of making the games currently in production would lead to success."

Brands are incredibly important to publishers. It assures them there's a built-in audience for a product. Take next year's Prey 2, a game very loosely associated with the original, in most respects. Prey was already a thing and that Prey 2 can exist means that Prey 1 had to exist. That's the basis of a brand.

If I were a betting man, I'd say Guitar Hero's coming back. I just don't know what it'll look like. 
Staff
#2 Posted by SSully (4060 posts) -

Because guitar hero is stupid thats why

#3 Edited by ajamafalous (11592 posts) -

I'm surprised that Activision so directly mentioned Rock Band 3 and its high review scores.

#4 Posted by ThePhantomnaut (6067 posts) -

Moar like Guitar Zero. Sounds like a cool Guitar Wolf cover band.

#5 Posted by MrKlorox (11186 posts) -

Because they're just unoriginal perpetuators of IP. Because they're businessmen, not musicians. Because cost is more important than value.

#6 Posted by MichaelEM3 (32 posts) -

Real enlightened stuff there, SSully.
(My apologies if I'm missing a meme there)

Nice story, Patrick. Keep bringing the scoops.

#7 Posted by McGhee (6091 posts) -

I've never played any of these fake music rhythm games and I never will. *crosses arms*

#8 Posted by big_jon (5660 posts) -

Die Activision Die!

#9 Posted by rottendevice (159 posts) -

Wow, Giant Bomb is killing it with news today!

#10 Posted by TehFlan (1944 posts) -

Because it isn't making money.

#11 Posted by Kierkegaard (556 posts) -

Good reporting and writing, Patrick. This inside baseball stuff always has the potential to be fascinating. Is it just me or are the inner workings of Activision a focal point for you?

#12 Posted by heatDrive88 (2173 posts) -

Just FYI, this is pretty much the best part about this story.


Followed by...


#13 Posted by Yanngc33 (4496 posts) -
@heatDrive88 said:
" Just FYI, this is pretty much the best part about this story.

Followed by...


"
lol that's what I call journalism
#14 Edited by clstirens (846 posts) -

  

  Because of Viral Marketing Douchebags
#15 Posted by WilliamHenry (1195 posts) -

How exactly can you reinvent Guitar Hero? They've already added every instrument that would be any fun, and have used every song anyone would want to play. What else could they possibly do? My gut says they wait until a year or two after the next generation of consoles, and reboot the franchise with a best of song list. Give it 3-5 years and it will be back.

#16 Posted by HT101 (1150 posts) -

Another good article Patrick.  Keep up the good work and I am anticipating what you will scoop next for GB.  OT, Guitar Hero 3 was the high point and then fell apart by being unwilling to change and grow their product in meaningful ways.

#17 Posted by Ben_H (3205 posts) -

They were fun at first, but thinking people would buy a game every 3 months was overkill, especially when the competition was offering DLC instead of another 60 dollar game.  Rock Band was simply the better game overall.

#18 Posted by Billychu (30 posts) -

You mean a good Metacritic rating doesn't make a game successful?  I would never have guessed from the way publishers worship that site.

#19 Posted by Olivaw (1215 posts) -
@Kierkegaard said:
" Good reporting and writing, Patrick. This inside baseball stuff always has the potential to be fascinating. Is it just me or are the inner workings of Activision a focal point for you? "
Well, it's where he made his bank. And as the largest corporation in the industry by a wide margin, they naturally have a lot to lose if they fuck up, and all eyes are on them with Call of Duty and everything.
#20 Posted by onan (1277 posts) -


The thing that kills me is that they're blaming the costs of manufacturing, but there's NO NEED for them to make their own guitars!  They started putting out new guitars with additional features like touchpanels on the necks and that burned their goodwill with a lot of the fanbase just as much as the oversaturation and poor quality control (Warriors of Rock, Van Halen).

 

Just do what Harmonix did, license everything out to Mad Catz or another manufacturer. Let them take the risk to get that peripheral in the hands of the 3 people that don't have it yet. Instead focus on improving the experience for players who enjoy playing music games.

#21 Posted by Pop (2530 posts) -

Cold hard math right there

#22 Posted by AngriGhandi (683 posts) -

HOT SCOOPS PART DEUX

#23 Posted by ExcessDan (18 posts) -

didn't they already try to poorly reinvent it with the last edition of guitar hero?

#24 Edited by JEC03 (892 posts) -

 Even the Activision memos are reskined just like the COD series.

#25 Posted by blaakmawf (542 posts) -

I'd be okay with Guitar Hero not coming back.

#26 Posted by dr_mantas (1692 posts) -

Seems Mr. Klepek has access to memos... Wonder how long that will last with all the yapping.

#27 Posted by NegativeCero (2927 posts) -

If they don't bring it back, I'm curious if people will look back at rhythm games with nostalgia.

#28 Posted by MolluskLingers (109 posts) -

Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans.

#29 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -
@patrickklepek said:
" Like last week's Call of Duty story, that headline is ripped from an Activision memo, word-for-word.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has been the best-selling video game this past generation, topping every Call of Duty game and Nintendo's exercise behemoth, Wii Fit.                                          "
I'm a fan of the genre.... but I want to see proof of this claim.  It seems a little out there.

Also:  they should consider that THEY are what ruined the genre after GHIII with their gotta release like at least half a dozen games within a year and a half.
#30 Posted by Levio (1781 posts) -
@mantasradzas said:
" Seems Mr. Klepek has access to memos... Wonder how long that will last with all the yapping. "
Many companies produce fake leaks in order to be able to disseminate information without being held accountable for the exact wording.
#31 Posted by 234r2we232 (3181 posts) -
@Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
I'm afraid you're confusing Rock Band 3 with StarCraft 2, ME2 and MK9.
#32 Posted by patrickklepek (3069 posts) -
@Kierkegaard: I just have solid sources for Activision, so I tend to report more about them.
Staff
#33 Posted by patrickklepek (3069 posts) -

Do you guys want to hear about True Crime? I'm not sure how much original stuff there is to say about the game, but I can take another look at what I've got.

Staff
#34 Posted by brehonia (49 posts) -
@Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
The only mention of Harmonix in this whole thing that isn't copied directly from an Activision memo is a statement that Rock Band 3 wasn't a massive success.
#35 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

Reinventing things is hard and cost money.

#36 Posted by BitterAlmond (400 posts) -

It's good to see a developer who doesn't insist on milking every franchise until it's dry as a stone. Kudos to Activision for focussing their attention on new, fresh games.

#37 Posted by MJames70 (41 posts) -

I'm not sure how much 'reinventing' there can be in a genre that involves notes dropping down a highway...at some point in the future, after it has been away for a while, it may be able to return as a 'niche' genre or with a nostalgia factor to it. But all those dreams of these games saving the music industry that was being proclaimed a few years ago seems a little ironic now...

#38 Edited by Chris2KLee (2308 posts) -
@ajamafalous said:

" I'm surprised that Activision so directly mentioned Rock Band 3 and its high review scores. "

Naming strong competition as a reason for leaving a market sounds better than saying "We ran this thing into the ground and fucked it up for everyone. Sorry about firing y'all."
#39 Posted by Scotto (1113 posts) -
@Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
The Rock Band 3 "dick sucking", as you so cleverly put it, is taken directly from the Activision memo, dumbass.

- Scott
#40 Posted by Scotto (1113 posts) -
@sofacitysweetheart said:
" @Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
I'm afraid you're confusing Rock Band 3 with StarCraft 2, ME2 and MK9. "
And you're confusing "dick sucking" with "good games they really like, and aren't afraid to admit it".

- Scott
#41 Posted by Everyones_A_Critic (6270 posts) -

I'd bet a large sum of money that if Kotick had tweeted "LOL" when Harmonix went down these forums would explode in outrage.

#42 Posted by Afroman269 (7388 posts) -
@Scotto said:
" @Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
The Rock Band 3 "dick sucking", as you so cleverly put it, is taken directly from the Activision memo, dumbass.

- Scott
"
Shhh! You're poking holes into his delusions. 
#43 Posted by sushisteve (182 posts) -
@patrickklepek said:
" Do you guys want to hear about True Crime? I'm not sure how much original stuff there is to say about the game, but I can take another look at what I've got. "
Absolutely, now that first person shooters and rythmn games have oversaturated the market, I have the feeling that crime-based open world games are next to be sent to gulags for "reinvention". The next Saint's Row game and LA Noire will probably be the canary in the coal mine for the big companies to see if people are getting tired of these games too.

I really like the industry inside-baseball stuff and hope to hear more about it.
#44 Posted by 234r2we232 (3181 posts) -
@Scotto said:
" @sofacitysweetheart said:
" @Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
I'm afraid you're confusing Rock Band 3 with StarCraft 2, ME2 and MK9. "
And you're confusing "dick sucking" with "good games they really like, and aren't afraid to admit it".

- Scott
"
Rock Band 3 is a good game. I'm not sure about those others.
#45 Posted by PeasantAbuse (5120 posts) -

I wasn't aware King Diamond was in Guitar Hero...
#46 Edited by sgt_match (121 posts) -

great article. Man, there are a lot of cynnical bastards in the giantbomb community. Calm down, fellow users. 

#47 Posted by Scotto (1113 posts) -
@sofacitysweetheart said:
" @Scotto said:
" @sofacitysweetheart said:
" @Methodis said:
" Oh great more Harmonix dick sucking by GiantBomb. Can't wait to read more about how Rock Band 3 is the best game in the world without very real bugs and problems designed to intentionaly steal money from the fans. "
I'm afraid you're confusing Rock Band 3 with StarCraft 2, ME2 and MK9. "
And you're confusing "dick sucking" with "good games they really like, and aren't afraid to admit it".

- Scott
"
Rock Band 3 is a good game. I'm not sure about those others. "
Your opinion is your opinion, but all of those games were critically acclaimed, so it isn't exactly shocking that they really like them.

Jeff has been a big MK fan forever - we all knew this.  Brad was a major StarCraft fan - we all knew this.  And millions of people loved Mass Effect 2.

I'm not sure why it constitutes "dick sucking" that these guys dare to have favourite games and franchises - they are video game fans.

- Scott
#48 Posted by MolluskLingers (109 posts) -

Rock Band 3 purposely hides Rock Band 3 versions of songs under the Rock Band 2 versions in the ROCK BAND 3 music store in order to try and trick you to buy both.  Why is the RB2 version even still on the RB3 in game store? Why is it above the RB3 ones in the listing? To steal your money. 

#49 Posted by skywing (1153 posts) -

I don't meant to hate, but I hope COD suffers the same fate soon.

#50 Posted by DonPixel (2585 posts) -
@SSully said:
" Because guitar hero is stupid thats why "

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