Is a Rock Band, Guitar Hero Teamup Doable?

Is a Rock Band, Guitar Hero Teamup Doable?

The initial sales numbers for Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock have been poor, and Rock Band 3′s numbers have unfortunately been even worse. Despite yielding high review scores, Rock Band 3 sold a paltry 7386 units across the United Kingdom in the week ending October 30.

Whereas it was initially tempting to credit Guitar Hero: Warrior of Rock‘s low sales numbers to a hesitant audience that was waiting to see how Rock Band 3 fared with critics, the state of the guitar-playing portion of music game genre is pretty transparent now: It’s in trouble.

Viacom seems to think so, too. It’s looking into selling Harmonix, according to the Wall Street Journal. And Activision-Blizzard is an interested buyer. If Activision did in fact eat up Harmonix, that might result in the amalgamation of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. Rock Hero, anyone? Or maybe a more subdued round of Guitar Band?

Joking aside, Activision would probably opt to release all of its subsequent music games under the familiar Guitar Hero name. But the real question is not about the franchise’s new name. It’s about whether or not a merger would do anything to rekindle people’s interest in fake guitar.

A combination of the two properties might help staunch confusion amongst consumers, which would be beneficial. If you’re a casual player who happened to indulge in Guitar Hero for the first time at a friend’s house, what would you think if you walked into a game store with the intent of buying your own copy–only to be confronted by piles of games and kits for both Guitar Hero and Rock Band? With a merger, consumers would only have to contend with ten thousand versions of Guitar Hero instead of ten thousand versions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Hardly a cure-all for the franchises’ woes, but definitely a start.

It might also be a bit too early to declare Rock Band 3 a failure. The initial sales numbers are disappointing, but Christmas is coming. Moreover, Rock Band 3 made some serious attempts to reinvigorate the music game genre, and those attempts haven’t gone unnoticed by critics. “Pro Mode,” for instance, lets players actually learn the instrument they’re toying around with. Dance Dance Revolution is being used in schools across America to help kids exercise. Can video games teach kids how to play an instrument in lieu of an ancient music teacher and communal instruments with teethmarks in every mouthpiece? Why not?

Word of mouth may still spread and convince jaded music game fans that Rock Band 3 offers up something different. If the buyout occurs regardless, Activision should take care to emphasize that music games are fun, and carry significant learning potential.

Finally, both Activision and Blizzard should remember that the music game genre is not new, and tends to be cyclical. Think of what’s come and gone over the past fifteen years: PaRappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5, about a million incarnations of Dance Dance Revolution, Elite Beat Agents, Guitar Hero, Karaoke Revolution, Rock Band, and others. Right this minute, dancing is the hot number thanks to Let’s Dance for the Wii and Kinect’s Dance Central. Activision and Harmonix can keep on throwing plastic guitars at the trend if they want, but casual players don’t seem to be interested anymore. Not for now, anyway. Eventually, people will get tired of dancing and will want a whole new way to freak out to the classics and the Top 40. Activision and/or Harmonix should fall back, study trends, and prepare to thrill audiences with the next big thing in music gaming.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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