Video game publisher Activision announced on Wednesday (February 9) that it was disbanding the unit that makes its "Guitar Hero" games, according to Reuters. The company blamed declining popularity for music-based video games and said it would stop all development of the "Guitar Hero" franchise for 2011. Activision chief executive Eric Hirshberg told Wall Street analysts, "We simply cannot make these games profitably based on current economics."L.A. Weekly asked guitar icon Slash, star of 2007's "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock", about why he thought the franchise got axed. "It was inevitable," Slash said. "Sales declined after the success of 'Guitar Hero III'. It was too costly to produce the game as a result."
The "Guitar Hero" series was launched in 2005 by RedOctane and Harmonix Music Systems, and distributed by Activision. Players used a guitar-shaped game controller to simulate playing lead, bass guitar, and rhythm guitar on numerous rock music songs. More instruments and vocals were added to later editions.
After publishing several editions of the game featuring songs from multiple artists, Activision released versions based specifically around the music of AEROSMITH, METALLICA and VAN HALEN.
At the time of the release of METALLICA's game, drummer Lars Ulrich pointed to the "Guitar Hero" franchise as a possible future avenue for music distribution. "This is gonna be a whole 'nother platform that music is gonna reach, an audience, and especially a younger audience, over the years," he told The Pulse Of Radio. "I mean, we put out our last record, 'Death Magnetic', through 'Guitar Hero' and it's great. It works on all fronts. And so I think that over the years, it'll turn into an expected way of releasing records."
Over the past couple of years, however, sales of music-based video games have slid rapidly, a result of tough economic times possibly coupled with consumer fatigue over so many editions of the games.
While the first "Guitar Hero" games and METALLICA's edition sold well, later titles like "Guitar Hero V" have bombed with consumers.
It is not clear how this turn of events will affect the competing "Rock Band" franchise, which has suffered similar woes despite high-profile games based on the music of GREEN DAY and THE BEATLES.
Activision's first-quarter revenue forecast for 2011 was off by nearly $100 million, despite healthy sales of its highly successful "Call of Duty: Black Ops" game.