Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Resurgence of the Plastic Instruments...?

If there's one video game franchise apart of Nintendo franchises that I dearly love, it's the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series (get this out of the way now; I prefer Rock Band more).  When my cousin first introduced me to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, I wasn't initially into it.  But when I picked up a full band bundle of Guitar Hero: World Tour, I began to fall in love with the notion of playing on plastic instruments.  In fact, I was so in love with it, that I uploaded videos of me getting perfect 100% runs (better known as Full Combos) on some songs on YouTube.  Recently, rumours that both new Guitar Hero and Rock Band games would be coming to the PS4 and Xbox One, and it got me excited.

Currently, I have in possession Guitar Hero III, Aerosmith, World Tour, Metallica, Smash Hits, 5, Van Halen and Warriors of Rock, and Rock Band 1, 2, Beatles, Lego and 3 (all games on PS3).  I've bought at least 150 songs as additional DLC across both GH and RB.  If we price each song at about $2/song, that's at most ~$300 I've spent on additional songs (not accounting for discounts from track/album packs).  So it's obvious that I've spent a lot of cash on these franchises (again, mostly Rock Band).  With that being said, when rumours of Guitar Hero and Rock Band games broke out not too long ago, a few questions went through my mind;
  1. Which platforms will they be released on?
  2. Old peripheral compatibility?
  3. What about all the DLC I previously bought?
  4. Will they sell?


When Harmonix (current developers of Rock Band, but essentially creators of the genre) released various surveys to gather a response about a possible new Rock Band, one of the questions they asked were which consoles do we currently game on.  I checked off PS3 and Wii U, as those are the major consoles that I currently own.  Now the rumours have stated that both the new GH and RB would be released on only PS4 and Xbox One -- the "more powerful" eighth generation consoles.  Notably absent are my two consoles of choice.  No PS3/Xbox 360 compatibility is understandable; while both consoles are still being used to this day, what's current are the PS4 and the Xbox One.  What shocks me the most (albeit, not extremely) is the lack of Wii U support.

Both Guitar Hero and Rock Band have had all their games from 2007-2010 released on the Wii.  This was probably because literally you, your neighbours, and your parent's friends owned a Wii.  Nintendo sold a lot of Wii consoles during its lifetime.  In fact, the Guitar Hero World Tour bundle I first bought?  It was on the Wii.  I had a Wii first, then a PS3 later on (say, 2009).  There are many reasons why Harmonix/Whoever is developing Guitar Hero (we'll say Activision for now) would decide to not support the Wii U, but the biggest reason has to be it's user base.  Despite the Wii U having a great 2014 in terms of game releases (Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros for Wii U and Hyrule Warriors among others), these great games failed to make a big dent in terms of console sales.  They've only appease current users of the system and fail to bring many new buyers (I'm an exception; I bought my Wii U with Mario Kart 8).  This is probably also the reason why we Wii U owners may never use our plastic instruments with the system on a new version of Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

What does this mean for me?  Well, I don't own a PS4 or an Xbox One.  Assuming these Guitar Hero and Rock Band rumours have never come out, I wouldn't be considering buying either system at the moment (I would choose PS4 because I've owned a PS2 and PS3, so I'm naturally in Sony's camp).  If there are new games, I'll have to consider shelling out $450 to buy a PS4 just so I can play them, on top of how much instruments and games cost.  And since I bought my Wii U less than a year ago, I obviously can't afford all of this at the moment.


I currently own the following instruments: Guitar Hero 5 guitar, Rock Band 1 drums and a couple USB microphones.  Both the GH5 guitar and RB drums are for PS3.  If I were to get a PS4, would my old instruments work?  Not many people have the cash, or want to spend the cash on buying new plastic instruments.  Personally, if they didn't allow backwards compatibility with instruments -- which is definitely a possibility depending if the wireless communication methods between controllers have changed between the PS3 and PS4 -- I would spend the money to buy a band set, only because I love these franchises.  But for convenience, both developers should try their best to allow old instruments to work on their new games.  This may be easier on PlayStation, since all the instruments use USB dongles to connect to the system, unlike the Xbox controllers where they all connect to the system as if they're a controller (without a dongle).


Oh DLC.  Where the majority of my money has gone towards both these franchises.  We're going to only deal with Rock Band's DLC library because Guitar Hero's DLC was taken down a while ago.  Rock Band's library has over 2,000 songs available between its games, it's DLC store and it's extended store Rock Band Network.  What will happen to them?  If they all work on the PS4 and Xbox One, that would be great for players who own both the seventh and eighth gen systems of the same family.  Problem is, what about people who went from Xbox 360 to PS4, and vice versa?  There's no way those users can retrieve their DLC since those purchases are linked to their console online user name (i.e Xbox Live or PSN) rather than an online account that would work across platforms.  It's a huge loss for that audience.

But what if they decide to not bring back any of the DLC and start anew?  Well, I see this as being good and bad.  Bad, because obviously all that cash spent on songs is stuck on the previous console.  Good, because Harmonix can repeat songs from their library and rechart them to sell on the new game, instead of looking at the bottom of the barrel for unrecognizable songs.  For songs like Don't Stop Believin', this could work great on the on-disc soundtrack for the next Rock Band with Keys charting (even though the song was taken down from the store a while ago), because we all wanted to play Don't Stop Believin' on the Rock Band keyboard (at least, I did).  That being said, I don't think restarting the Rock Band library is a good idea with how big it is.  Why throw away such a big and well-established library that's still readily available just for the sake of a reboot?

Will anyone buy these games?

Obviously I will, assuming I find a way to shell out the cash for a PS4.  But if the sales numbers of each franchises' last games (Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Rock Band 3) are any indication, then the future seems grim.  Why did these games start to fade away?  I think any rhythm gamer will tell you about 2009.  2009 was the year Activision milked the living hell out of the Hero brand; releasing a total of 7 Hero games in the span of about 8 months.  The flagship title of 2009 -- Guitar Hero 5 -- only made half the sales of 2008's flagship title -- Guitar Hero World Tour.  Sure, DJ Hero was a interesting release, and Guitar Hero: Metallica is a great addition to the library, but Band Hero was unnecessary, Guitar Hero: Van Halen could've been pushed back to 2010 or gotten rid of completely, and Smash Hits should've been a DLC pack for the main series games.

The milking affected the genre as a whole, dropping it's market value significantly between 2008 and 2009 and eventually destroying the sales of the 2010 releases from both franchises (Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Rock Band 3).  This was unfortunate.  Nobody wanted to play with their plastic instruments anymore, and who's to say they want to 5 years later?  People have moved on and it's going to be a hard sell to bring people back.

Whatever happens for both Guitar Hero and Rock Band, all I can say is that I'm excited.  As an avid player and lover of the genre, I would be willing (depending on my finances) to go out and spend the cash to bring the band back together in 2015.  But for the market as a whole, given the milking of 2009 and all the questions surrounding the previous infrastructures of the games, it's hard to say if anyone else wants to go back on tour with me.

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