When Guitar Hero Ruled the World … and Then Vanished
Most people today still know about the juggernaut known as Guitar Hero.
It was a game where you and your friends picked up plastic instruments that had multi-colored buttons on it and pressed them to a rythem. It was fun -- a lot of fun!
Guitar Hero was about battling friends to who could get the highest score to awesome songs from Rob Zombie, Avenged Sevenfold, Buckethead and more!
Then, it all vanished.
Guitar Hero was a rhythmic game that played popular songs.
As the lead in Guitar Hero, you played songs like you were in a band. It was instrumental karaoke meets video gaming.
Performing from basements all the way to large arenas, you truly felt like a rock star -- in front of your TV. It was so popular and it became a cultural phenomenon!
I could play the guitar years before Guitar Hero came out. I have even been in a few bands here and there.
So, looking at the game for the first time, I thought: "Pshh! Why play fake guitar when you can actually sit down and learn real guitar?"
It didn't take long for my friend (who bought a PlayStation 2 specifically for the game) to introduce me to Guitar Hero.
After attempting a song or two, I was hooked.
The game doesn't teach you to play guitar, but it does teach you to keep rhythm.
Dance Dance Revolution was the hot game at the time. Guitar Hero just aided the uprising of the rhythm genre for gaming.
The first Guitar Hero was only the beginning of Guitar Hero domination. Then, Guitar Hero 2 came and just knocked it out of the park. It offered much more than the original Guitar Hero, which had became so popular that there were competitions with it.
Even here at WGRD 97.9, we have a rock trailer dedicated to the game!
How awesome is that right?
One thing that was noticeable about these first couple games, though, was that the songs were popular songs covered by studio bands. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was quite noticeable.
Record labels started noticing the success of Guitar Hero, and decided to jump on board and collect royalties!
Guitar Hero 3 arrived on shelves and pretty much sold out everywhere I can remember. My college roommate was crazy, and went extremely early in the morning to go get the game -- finding one at the Ypsilanti, Mich., Target. I waited to watch him play the game and was in awe of how good the game sounded, and how creepy the lead vocalist looked (like a weird monkey man).
Guitar Hero 3 was awesome, but little did I know at the time there was another game out there that just dominated the music video game scene.
Rock Band hit the scene, and blew Guitar Hero out of the water for me. Not only could you play guitar, but you could grab three friends and have a whole band of plastic instruments! Rock Band to me just seemed like the stronger rhythmic game.
It gave my party something more to do. That sounded like a plan to me!
Like Guitar Hero, though, Rock Band 2 came out and just knocked it out the park again! Along with the artists and record labels to, it seemed like every popular artist jumped on the Rock Band bandwagon, releasing songs to purchase on either Xbox Live or PSN. I fell for it, too!
I am pretty sure I spent at least a good $20 on downloadable tracks for Rock Band, which included System of a Down, KISS and more.
Rock Band was a juggernaut, and everyone was playing! I remember sitting one night in my college apartment with two other friends and played the Endless Setlist. It was more than six hours straight of every track on Rock Band 2!
Too Much of a Good Thing
Then, it happened: oversaturation.
After the success of Rock Band 2, it seemed like every game company had to release some sort of music game. There were the dreadful Rock Revolution and Rock of the Dead.
Video game companies did what they try to do best: make money.
Guitar Hero released World Tour, with a full band set that wasn't compatible with Rock Band. So, to play World Tour to the fullest, you had to have another set of plastic instruments! After a while, it got really expensive and you had four different plastic guitars!
Then, they released expansions for your old drum set and more! I think it got the worst when bands started releasing their own versions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Van Halen, Metallica, Aerosmith, Green Day, Rock the '80s; it just didn't end. The market became so cluttered with these games that basically, overnight, the genre died.
Rock Band 3 came out with a new keyboard instrument, but it barely sold. I worked at a GameStop at the time, and remember seeing keyboards sitting in the corner and collecting dust.
Guitar Hero and Rock Band have since been abandoned by their developers. The chance of them ever coming back is very slim.
Every once in a while, there is a music-oriented game like Rocksmith or Bandfuse that use real instruments. But they will never be the huge success that Rock Band and Guitar Hero were. While there are people out there that still play the game, gone are the days where an event centered around the game.
My Rock Band set currently sits at my parents' home in my old room. It is hidden behind shirts that barely fit and a bunch of other crap I left there.
Maybe some day I will throw a party that will feature those old plastic instruments again.