Activision: Guitar Hero to re-form
Less than a year since Activision announced the franchise had performed its final farewell gig, Guitar Hero is to make an unexpected comeback. In fact, Activision never planned to kill it off in the first place, apparently.
The publisher's CEO, Bobby Kotick, admitted the company had only pulled Guitar Hero from the market in order to touch it up out of view and give the series a full relaunch to win back fans who were losing interest.
Kotick let the news slip in an interview with Forbes, saying: "We said, you know what... we’re going to take the products out of the market, and we’re not going to tell anybody what we’re doing for awhile, but we’re going to stop selling Guitar Hero altogether. And then we’re going to use new studios and reinvent Guitar Hero. And so that’s what we’re doing with it now."
Back to bass-ics
With rival games like Rock Band and Rocksmith making much noise over the use of real instruments, perhaps Activision felt paranoid Guitar Hero was seen as the gimmicky more Fisher Price-style music game. Either way, people still play it, a whole lotta people.
It'll be interesting to see where Activision takes the franchise. Surely it doesn't want to change too much. One thing's for sure though, I bet it won't include any Axl Rose songs in the roster. ®
You want Guitar Hero to make money again?
1) Strip the current generation engine back to the simpler way it looked and felt in the heyday of Guitar Hero 2. The old circular 'notes' were much easier to see. Strip out all the 'Super-combo!' announcements and over flashy lights that got in front of the fretboard and distracted players.
2) Make it much more party friendly - the game should come with all tracks unlocked straight off for party mode. Even in single player people are going to dislike certain songs - make them skippable. Accept that the majority of your audience already knows how to play and wants to skip to their favourites. Allow people to set up tracklists to play ahead of time instead of booting players to the menu every five minutes. Set it up so folks can save these tracklists for any time they want to play. Once players are using tracklists, instead of loading a new stage between tracks the engine should precache the next song before the current one finishes - no stage change needed. For parties, allow players to join in, drop out or switch instruments between songs or even mid song. Put in an option to turn off 'failing' a song so everyone can relax and jam.
3) Beta test the life out of this sucker. It should be easy to get a demo out online on the consoles for the customers who have the instrument controllers from previous GH games. Get feedback and incorporate the most suggested changes. Maybe incentivise this with prizes for the testers whose suggestions prove most popular.
4) Put together an initial song lineup of popular songs from a wide range that should have something for everyone - a selection of recent stuff, 90's classics, undiscovered indie gems etc. Even music from games might sell if it can be licenced.
By now, you should have a lean game engine that has sufficient graphics without being distracting that is both easy to play for a high score or for fun at parties, With an enticing track list and seamless background loading that minimises waiting and time in menus. If you don't have this already, go through steps 1-4 until you do.
5) Release the game. Make sure it is backwards compatible with the old peripherals as usual. Now that you have a defininitive version out there, NEVER EVER release another Guitar Hero. As long as the game works and the band graphics (which players quickly stop looking at anyway) are sufficiently entertaining, there is no need to waste money on developing another version.
6) With your definitive version out there, the money is in expansion packs. On top of the usual individual songs made available to download, once a year release an expansion with about a dozen new hits/old faves for about ten bucks.This really is the key - GH has moved from cash cow to declining star - the best way to make money is to trot out new content (expansion packs) preferably download only to minimise production & distribution costs while keeping running costs to a minimum (don't pay to make a game that already exists!)
I think this says it all...
Axl Rose should get a ClueX4
No "Gums & Hoses" = no great loss...
Strum that plastic!
The problem for Guitar Hero was that Activision completely mis-read the market:
1) They saturated the market with too many variations and band-specific releases: Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen, DJ Hero, Band Hero, Warriors of Rock, etc
2) They insisted on keeping a cheesy vaudeville cartoon-band theme throughout the games
3) They focused on making the game attractive to "hardcore" gamers, with features such as locked content, a "story" mode and
4) Only a small subset of songs can be copied from individual game-disks to the HDD. As a result, you have to keep swapping discs (and waiting for the game to reload before re-configuring your band setup) to access all the songs
To be fair, Rock Band was guilty for most of these things too, but to a much lesser degree.
The question is: has Activision learned from it's mistakes, and will they actually put some effort into redeveloping the franchise? Or is this just an attempt to do a quick cash-grab in the hopes that people have forgiven and forgotten?
Sadly, I know which one I'm putting my money on...