Saturday, February 12, 2011

Guitar Hero sh*tting the bed

It may be better to burn out then fade away, but few have burned out as spectacularly as Guitar Hero. The five-year-old video game series called it quits after years of success. Twenty games in five years is nothing to complain about, but it is just this saturation that doomed the brand. And since nobody forced Guitar Hero to sell out, it is only their greed that is to blame. Think like Aesop's fable where the dog tries to get another dog's bone, but it turns out to be his reflection in a river and he loses both bones. Just like with Aesop's dog, Guitar Hero wanted it all and now it's left with nothing (and instead of a bone it's a plastic guitar).

A guitar is a lot more badass.

It all started in 2005 with the first Guitar Hero game. Nobody had any faith in the game. The songs in the first game weren't even the original versions. Instead they were sound alike covers. RedOctane, the game publisher, didn't invent the rhythm game (I can never spell the word rhythm) but they did popularize the idiot proof peripheral that allowed frat boys to make fools of themselves at parties. We get it, it's like you're playing an instrument. That doesn't make you any less white, it in fact makes you lamer. Wearing a sweatband while playing is doubly lame.

Sup brah?

It was an immediate success, creating a bonafide phenomenon. Guitar Hero had everybody's hearts and minds. They did with it what anyone would expect them to do, exploit the hell out of it. The very next year a sequel was released. Now, Guitar Hero 2 wasn't bad at all and showed actual innovation when compared to Guitar Hero 1. Guitar Hero 3 was basically a tricked out expansion pack. You see, Guitar Hero 3 was the start of Neversoft's involvement in development. This is worth mentioning because Neversoft is the developer behind the Tony Hawk series. Tony Hawk also started out as an innovative game series. But, like Guitar Hero, its constant yearly releases doomed it to irrelevance. With no real innovation or point, the games just became hollow shells of themselves. This over-saturation leads to it's downfall. To wit, while everyone has heard of Tony Hawk Pro Skater (unless you lived under a rock or with the Amish), few realize his games are still being made.

Released 2010.

Just how Tony Hawk got edged out of the market by Skate (the more innovative game), Rock Band came on to the scene and stole Guitar Hero's thunder. Rock Band was even made by Harmonix, who helped make the first two Guitar Heros. So, Harmonix comes back with a vengeance and ends up destroying its monopoly on music based games. All because Rock Band thought out of the box and added cheap plastic drums to the party. It's no coincidence that a year after Rock Band came out, Guitar Hero released World Tour, adding it's own microphone and drums. While the argument could of been made that Rock Band was the knockoff, it showed enough innovation and ingenuity to prove itself as its own brand, forcing Guitar Hero to copy off it.

Guitar Hero answers this problem by furthering saturating the market with band themed versions. I love Aerosmith but I'm not trying to pretend to be Joe Perry for the whole game. I doubt Joe Perry even wants to be Joe Perry. Instead of trying to salvage their brand and reclaim credibility, they instead went for the cash grab. They may have made the short money but at the price of retaining a brand that once showed promise.

Is this the fulfillment of the promise?

I'm not anti-Hero. Guitar Hero is a fun and challenging game. Through the Fire and Flames has never gotten nerds attention until they mastered the multicolored fret buttons. And without Guitar Hero, the philistines of my generation may have never known some of the greats of rock. Yes, I'm sure that a rock star is spinning in his grave every time a kid says "I heard that in Guitar Hero," but it's still keeping the music alive.

I'm sure Iggy Pop's future ghost is pissed every time he hears, "I heard him in Guitar Hero."

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