Activision Gives Guitar Hero the Hook

By  |  Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Having milked the music game genre with endless iterations on Guitar Hero, Activision is bailing out.

Activision announced that it has dissolved its Guitar Hero business unit and cancelled development on a Guitar Hero game that was supposed to launch this year. The publisher blamed declining sales in the music genre as a whole.

DJ Hero may also be in jeopardy, with Eurogamer reporting severe layoffs at the franchise’s developer, Freestyle Games. DJ Hero 2, which launched in October 2010, was considered a flop.

The decline of music games has been a long time coming. Two years ago, PaidContent noted that the music games genre underperformed in 2008 compared to the previous year. Instead of innovating with must-have hardware, publishers Activision and MTV Games oversaturated the market with spin-offs like Band Hero, Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits, Guitar Hero: Metallica, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Beatles: Rock Band, Lego Rock Band and Rock Band Unplugged.

By the end of 2009, analysts predicted that music games would never achieve their former glory.

On the bright side, music-based video games aren’t completely dead. Dance Central is one of the most popular games for Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing camera, and Tap Tap Revenge 4 continues to dominate the iPhone app charts. Rock Band developer Harmonix, which MTV Games sold to private investors earlier this month, may return to its earlier franchises Frequency and Amplitude, which focused on electronica and didn’t require expensive guitar-shaped controllers.

In other words, there’s still a market for games that celebrate music, even if they don’t involve big plastic peripherals.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Stilgar Says:

    One word: oversaturated.

  2. Keith Shaw Says:

    Other problems: Trying to get other people (friends, family, non-gamers) interested in the game. If you had some people over they might want to try either the drum set or the guitars, but unless they were a gaming genius, they lost interest pretty quickly. On the singing side, it's like karaoke – you either love doing it or hate doing it. So for the most part I ended up just playing the game solo with a guitar controller.

    The other problems were the lack of new / good songs for the existing games – Harmonix did an admirable job of trying to get new songs into the library for download (although, at $2 per song, it got expensive very quickly), but there were still lots of music players on the sidelines.

    My one wish for these games, and something that will never happen, would be for a way to allow the games to convert your existing song library (through iTunes or songs on your music server) into the game. I'd even consider paying $1 to convert existing songs, but the economics of the licensing issues likely prevented this from ever happening. I cringed every time I downloaded the "Rock Band" version of a song that I already owned in digital form (albeit MP3 or iTunes-DRM or whatever).

  3. lplimac Says:

    While over saturated works another reason may be the licensing fees that the labels were charging.