How Guitar Hero Live spelt the end for the beloved rhythm game of our childhood
Guitar hero live is something that can statistically be called a ‘bad’ game. There was a clear decline in the franchise, with sales dropping drastically over the years. Further, the series was plagued with a range of major changes that alienated its long-standing fan base and issues with its developers that led to the death of the popular Guitar Hero series.
In terms of the game itself, Guitar Hero Live introduced completely new hardware – replacing the traditional 5 button controller with a more realistic model that now included two rows of 3 buttons (for 6 in total). The primary issue with this is that while it helped promote the realism of the game, it was also a big change for returning players who had spent many years of experience with the old controllers.
While Ernkvist (2008) states that ‘innovations in the form of new experiences are the backbone of most entertainment… video games … [are] characterized by this constant urge for new variation in player experiences’ all of these revolutionary changes have compounded into an experience that is completely different from previous Guitar Hero games, something that – looking back on the game’s popularity – was not a good thing.
However, the decline of a prominent series such as Guitar Hero is not something that happens in a void, there were a range of other factors that contributed to the game’s downfall.
One key aspect was the series primary rival, the Rock Band franchise. Rock Band was developed by Harmonix – the original developer of the first Guitar Hero game, before the series as well as their partner RedOctane was bought by Activision in 2006. Rock Band had a massive song catalogue, comprising of a range of DLCs that carried over to new games, meaning that players could still enjoy their favourite tracks with newer hardware and software capabilities. Rock Band also offered players the ability to include vocal harmony and had peripheral controllers (such as drums) that were superior to those of Guitar Hero.
Jason Evangelho, someone who played Guitar Hero ‘since its inception’ explains that while he was eager for the new changes in the game, something that was critical to the game’s core was removed in this installation, the identity of the player. Instead of building up a band, the player is a ‘faceless, nameless, shapeless guitar player drifting between 10 different bands.’ Because of this, he found the game ‘not a compelling, exciting enough offering to pull [him] away from Rock Band.
Some further factors contributing to the downfall of the game, in audio form to offer some variation: