What Killed Guitar Hero?

Guitar Hero was first released in 2005 and for a while was the hottest thing in video gaming but seemingly almost as quickly as it had burst into the world, the game disappeared never to be seen again. How could something so hot fall out of favour so quickly and disappear?

The Game

Guitar Hero was a series of music video games in which players used an innovative guitar shaped controller to simulate playing rhythm and base guitar to rock songs. Players would strum the controller and push coloured buttons on the fret to match the notes which appeared on the screen. The game play resembled playing an authentic guitar and was believed to have encouraged many enthusiasts to take up playing the instrument for real.

The Music

The series of games started by using cover versions of songs but later versions used fully mastered recordings and special re-recordings of popular tracks. Bands were initially a little reluctant to get involved with the project but in an era when it was harder and harder to make money from music many groups soon realised the financial potential of the game and jumped on board. The music, however, was both the making of the game and one of its principle downfalls. Acquiring the rights for the music was a costly enterprise and as sales began to fall the practice could no longer be supported. As less popular but more affordable music was utilised in the later versions so interest began to wane further. The game was a paradox, it needed the big tracks to sell copies but the big tracks made it too expensive to produce.


Guitar Hero hit a big problem with the release of PlayStation 3 as the game controller was not compatible with the new system. Eventually adaptors were available but none allowed full functionality. This inevitably caused upset and many players to abandon the game in favour of those they could play on their new console.


Guitar Hero was also beset with legal problems. Some versions of the game featured likenesses of Gibson and Rickenbacker guitars which Gibson claimed infringed one of their patents. Gibson eventually lost the case which dragged on for some time. Axl Rose of Guns n’ Roses also tried to sue the company over their alleged illegal use of the band’s music but his action looks set to fail due to a delay in submitting the lawsuit. Although Activision, the publishers of the game, have not lost any legal actions the unwanted distraction, publicity and legal costs must have been damaging.

What Killed Guitar Hero?

The Time Has Passed

Guitar Hero has probably simply had its day. The game saw many incarnations in a short period of time which were all simply slight variations on the same format. The market for the product had probably been saturated and sales naturally began to fall making continued production with songs from the bigger artists uneconomic. It is also almost certainly the case that new technological developments in gaming with gesture motion sensing and beyond would have killed the concept in the near future anyway. The world now awaits a new generation of music related gaming to take it by storm.

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Sally Stacey has been playing video games since ‘Pong!’ was released in the early 1980′s, although has never had a desire to play ‘Guitar Hero!’

Author: Tech Poster

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