It wasn't long ago that rhythm games were the talk of the town. The leader of the craze was Guitar Hero, a silly game where people stood in front of their televisions and pushed primary colored buttons on a fake plastic guitar. It seemed like no one should have cared, but almost everyone did. You couldn't go to a friend's house without seeing one of those guitars next to the TV. As Jon announced earlier, however, the franchise has now been disbanded.
Unfortunately, 9 mixes of the game in, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock sold as little as 89,000 copies total. This compared to the 1.4 million copies of Guitar Hero III that were sold opening week and it's no wonder Activision has cut the franchise loose. But, what happened? Dance Dance Revolution has had many more than 9 mixes, and somehow that franchise has survived well over a decade, whereas Guitar Hero is dead in just 6 years.
Hit the break for some ideas on what went wrong.
Activision's official answer, of course, is,
Due to continued declines in the music genre, we have decided to disband our Guitar and DJ Hero business unit and discontinue development of our Hero games for 2011.
In reality, most of us in the industry know what happened. Activision released several mixes per year for a while there and people got tired of hearing the name. Everyone assumed you would see a new game every few months and that makes it not terribly special. With too much of any one brand coming at you so frequently, is it a surprise people moved away from that franchise?
We see this happen all the time. A company will bombard you with one name over and over until you not only can't stand to hear the name anymore but can't stand the product anymore, either (I'm looking at you, Bieber). That is what happened here. Konami has slowly released new mixes in the Dance Dance Revolution series for well over a decade and every time a new one is released, there is still as much excitement as there was the first time.
In addition to a slow release schedule, there has also been evolution in the DDR world. While the basic gameplay has remained fairly constant, save for the Kinect game, thankfully under a slightly different branding, DDR has added new modes, challenges and even pad configurations over the years. By constantly innovating their franchise, they were able to keep it constantly new. Activision seemed to take the exact opposite approach - change as little as possible and release them as fast as possible.
What we didn't talk about here was DJ Hero also being discontinued, but that is for good reason. I don't think any of you realized that it wasn't discontinued after the first game. Now you know and it still doesn't matter. As for Guitar Hero, I would love to know your thoughts on the end of an era. Let us know in the comments section below.