In terms of popularity, the music rhythm genre was once right up there with first person shooters. Unfortunately, though, sales of the genre soon dropped off due to the sheer amount of music games that were released at the time, the amount of space that the games' plastic peripherals took up and the high cost of buying controllers and the accompanying software. The global recession of 2008 didn't help matters either as people didn't have as much extra money to spend on unleashing their inner rock god.
Recently, there has been renewed interest in the music rhythm genre. Last year, Harmonix (the developer of the first Guitar Hero game and the creators of Rock Band) released A City Sleeps and Fantasia: Music Evolved and in 2015 they plan to release crowdfunded title Amplitude. There have also been substantial rumors that they may revive Rock Band on PS4 and Xbox One.
So is there room for Guitar Hero to make a comeback too? Publisher Activision axed the Guitar Hero franchise in 2011, "due to continued declines in the music genre" and the last Guitar Hero game (Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock) was released back in 2010. The franchise was a substantial cash cow for the publisher, though, having earned over $2 billion in sales overall and so as their other heavy hitter, Call of Duty, declines, it makes sense that the publisher would want to revive the series. That appears to be the case as sources speaking to Kotaku say that a new Guitar Hero game will show its face at E3.
According to the two sources, the upcoming Guitar Hero will be released on PS4 and Xbox One later this year and will be given a total makeover for the occasion. Instead of the over the top visuals of the previous games, this next Guitar Hero will be "more realistic" and crowds and performers will more closely resemble real life. This would certainly emphasize the fact that Guitar Hero is being reborn but given that Guitar Hero has looked cartoonish and arcade-y since it was created, it's unclear if the change will sit well with core GH fans.
Also risking a fractured fanbase are new Guitar Hero guitar peripherals. It's interesting that the sources don't mention any other peripherals such as a drum or a microphone, but it does follow on from previous reports that Guitar Hero 7 (which was cancelled back in 2011) would be going back to the series' core guitar-playing roots in an effort to win back fans. From a business perspective, the decision to ditch drums and microphones makes sense as Guitar Hero won't have to compete so closely with that Rock Band reboot.
As for who is in charge of development, the series' original developers Neversoft and RedOctane have both shut down which really lends credit to the idea that Guitar Hero will be massively different. Furthermore, the sources didn't name a specific development team but they did indicate that one of Activision's West Coast developers is working on it. By process of elimination, that means that the next Guitar Hero game is most likely being developed by High Moon Studios (who brought Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to PS3 and Xbox 360) or Toys for Bob (who developed Skylanders: Trap Team).
While this is all just rumors for now, Activision is playing it coy, having released the following statement:
"We don't comment on rumour or speculation, but have previously said, that as one of the most beloved entertainment franchises, we would only bring Guitar Hero back if we developed the right innovations to usher the franchise into the new generation of gaming."
That's neither a confirmation or an outright denial and E3 is rapidly approaching so watch this space for more.
Would you buy a new Guitar Hero game? Do you think the series is past its best?