Yes, I know that Guitar Hero did try to stage another comeback not too long ago but hear me out. Guitar Hero and Rock Band created a movement and fad which incorporated the immersive power of video games and music. Rhythm games burned brightly for a good number of years during the rise of early social media (MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube) and mainstream television. It was all anyone ever talked about, how Guitar Hero makes you feel like a rockstar while also enjoying a bombastic soundtrack of classic and new music. Later on, Rock Band would help include your friends or family into the fray via other roles in a modern rock band. However, like most fads and fun things that rule a generation, Guitar Hero and other games like it outlived its welcome.
The Failed Resurgence
The same companies that made them would also try to keep people playing with new gimmicks and other rhythm games like Dance Central or DJ Hero. The only one that has still stuck around is the Just Dance franchise. Published by Ubisoft, it still releases yearly updates to this day. In 2015, Activision tried to revitalize the franchise with a brand new game called Guitar Hero Live which included “GHTV, the world’s first playable music video network. GHTV is a 24-hour mode that lets fans play along to a continually-updated collection of official music videos – across a wide variety of genres – from the newest releases to favorite hits.” The public was not ready to accept another Guitar Hero rhythm game, not only because of the sporadic nature of its playlist, but by the fact that you were required to buy another set of instruments again.
Clearly, it was way too early for Guitar Hero to make any type of comeback with the type of investment it was asking for. However, even though it was a failure by all accounts, it did develop one neat feature that could possibly be a revolutionary experience: a live feed concert. “A quantum leap forward in immersion and realism, GH Live is a live-action experience that delivers the full emotional roller coaster of being on stage and performing in a real band, in front of real crowds, who dynamically react in real-time to how well or poorly you play.” Guitar Hero Live was different from its predecessors by creating this weird hybrid of a dynamic live feed crowd that would change based on your performance. Check out the video if you haven’t seen it in action:
This could have been a game changer. But its an idea too early for its time. Yet new developments happening today may actually bring Guitar Hero or rhythm games in general back to the forefront and it all starts with VR.
Virtual Reality Experience
VR has come a long way since its earlier iterations in the late 1990s. Technology has progressed far enough to provide a VR experience that is not only decent but almost a religious awakening for some. Players are able to solve puzzles as Batman in PlayStation VR or use a Gear Vibe to travel and look at other countries via YouTube’s VR functionality. While some developers are trying to figure out ways to create fun and dynamic games in a virtual space, one developer has already developed a monumental achievement and possibly the natural progression of rhythm genre as a whole.
Beat Saber, developed by Czech indie studio Beat Games, places the player in a virtual world that looks like a rhythm game tunnel. Colorful blocks come at you at various speeds while you slice each cube up with the appropriate stroke of your motion controller. Not only is this game fun and a good exercise routine, but it’s also a proof of concept that VR could bring that magic that captured millions of people during the 2000s for Guitar Hero.
Movies like Ready Player One have already shown a ‘what if’ scenario for millions of potential customers; what if you can be a star? What if you could play at Madison Square Garden in New York or Coachella in California with any kind of genre that can incorporate dancing, singing, and instrumentals? There are multiple possibilities but Guitar Hero is in the best spot to push this into reality. Imagine playing to a live dynamic crowd using the technology developed in Guitar Hero Live while also being there through PlayStation VR or Oculus Rift. As it stands right now, we aren’t that far away from VR becoming an affordable mainstream device and Guitar Hero is a popular and known brand.
For now, let’s focus on how Guitar Hero can rise from the ashes and solve potentials hurdles to recapture that magic.
Licensed music became a major hurdle that Guitar Hero 3 and later iterations. The music industry landscape has dramatically changed since the late 2000s. Digital downloads and streaming virtually rendered most songs as a sunken cost rather than a source of revenue. Artists make music but still lose millions of dollars per year on the songs themselves. But they need new albums to be able to perform tours; a bulk of where the profit is made. Check out this article in 2018 on how indie music labels stay afloat in the modern age of music distribution. Streaming and digital sales of songs or albums make up a small portion of profit; the bulk is made via licensing deals, merchandise, and concert tickets.
So how can Guitar Hero include some of the best music in the industry when considering that licensing music has become a logistical nightmare for several video games? According to this Engadget article, the last iteration of Guitar Hero ran into problems in keeping songs available for those who bought it. Essentially its biggest selling point, GHTV, became it’s worst feature since several users lost access to 400+ songs after the service shut down and leaving only the base 42 songs that were on the disk. Guitar Hero VR would have to strike a worthwhile deal with several music labels or make a deal with Spotify to support their platform. Beat Saber offers its own music soundtrack but PC players are allowed to import their own library of songs. Imagine a playlist that you created in Spotify, iTunes, or YouTube Music and importing that list of music to your Guitar Hero VR game!
Get Rid Of Proprietary Controllers
This became the main crux of why most people stopped playing several iterations down the line. Not only was the gameplay getting repetitive but having to purchase a new set of peripherals became too taxing for those looking for quick fun. Having to pay $150+ for a new guitar controller or other nonsense became counter-intuitive when most customers were perfectly happy playing with the same controllers. A new Guitar Hero game would have to get rid of expensive proprietary controllers and create a gameplay loop without the need for external inputs.
Those are some of the ways that Guitar Hero could come back to the modern age. Become a star and rock out to a massive crowd through the power of virtual reality. What are some changes you would like to see if Guitar Hero became a mainstream darling again? Maybe you hate the idea and don’t want that fad to rise again? Let us know in the comments below!
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