Guitar Hero’s Tale Ends (for now) with a Massive Giveaway. Enter Here!

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Guitar Hero’s Tale Ends (for now) with a Massive Giveaway. Enter Here!

“We thought, there is no way this game is going to be successful.”

Prophetic words from Alex Rigopulos, CEO of Harmonix, recalling the early days of Guitar Hero. And when you look back far enough – past the millions of copies sold, past the weekend parties, before the game became a pop-culture milestone – his skepticism is actually very understandable.

Guitar Hero Johnny

At that point in history – 2005 — Harmonix had created several high-quality games, but none that were megahits. Frequency and Amplitude brought innovative music gameplay on PlayStation 2, following the trail blazed by Parappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy, and Konami’s Japan-only Guitar Freaks. Harmonix had also worked with Konami on Karaoke Revolution with success, but even Rigopulos says “they weren’t blockbuster hits, they were base hits.”

When a small publisher named RedOctane approached Harmonix with a request, it was backwards. RedOctane wanted to make a guitar controller, but they didn’t have a game to go with it. Would Harmonix be interested in making that game? “In the beginning, we were kind of reluctant,” says Rigopulos. “They were this tiny company – they were like half the size we were. They had no money or marketing resources. They had no experience in publishing.” It was a destiny moment: Do you focus on staying afloat with base hits, or do you go for that blockbuster? “This was the game we had been dreaming of making for years,” admits Rigopulos. “We had complete creative freedom. We decided to do it – and of course, Guitar Hero happened.”

And oh, how it happened. Word of mouth propelled the original PS2 game to better and better sales throughout the 2005 holiday season, and well beyond. “Basically, as fast as RedOctane could make the guitars, the games were selling to retail and selling out,” recalls Rigopulos. Among the game’s biggest fans: Activision, which acquired RedOctane and the Guitar Hero name, then worked with Harmonix to bring Guitar Hero II to market the next year.

Guitar Hero 2 Judy

However, by the second sequel, Harmonix had been acquired by MTV Games, and the third GH installment would be handled by Neversoft — themselves enormous fans of the series. “We put it on a projector in the back room,” recalls Alan Flores, GHIII’s Lead Designer, “and then suddenly every week, we were having a big Guitar Hero party.” Rigopulos and company went on to create Rock Band, even if it was hard to let go of their creation. “Obviously, Guitar Hero is dear to our hearts,” he says. “It was our breakthrough game and we are very proud of having created it.”

Neversoft had its own mountain to climb, starting from scratch with none of Harmonix’s programming code to build upon. “Just being fans of the franchise, we didn’t want to f*** it up,” says Flores. “That was the first thing that came to our mind: we wanted to do a pure Guitar Hero experience. People loving the game as much as they do made us nervous – they’re going to be skeptical.” But with additions like Battle Mode, celebrity guitarists like Slash and Tom Morello, an epic good-vs-evil storyline, and a wireless controller for maximum living room rocking, fans embraced it, and several new ones got on board. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock wound up being the first video game to top $1 billion in sales.

Guitar Hero 3 Slash

Every GH game kept the innovation coming – full band play and a music creation studio in Guitar Hero World Tour, a free-flowing Party Play mode in GH5, and a detailed challenge system in Warriors of Rock that let you call out any friend on any song, on any instrument. And of course, there are full explorations of the catalogs of legendary bands like Aerosmith, Van Halen, and Metallica.

With the release of April’s downloadable Track Packs, Guitar Hero as a franchise goes on vacation until further notice. Some are sad to see it go, others happy — but of course, the music lives on. Those games and guitars are in your collection, and it’s easy enough to fire them up whenever you want to feel like a guitar hero. Long live rock.

In honor of Guitar Hero’s remarkable run on PlayStation consoles, I’m giving away a Guitar Hero “time capsule” – multiple games from the series, lots of DLC, and other collectible swag for superfans. Check for how to enter, and good luck!

Guitar Hero

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11 Author Replies

  • Meh, never liked any guitar hero games nor rock band.

  • This is a dying market for a reason. Too many games of too similar (if not identical) execution. Literally sucked the market dry.

    You are going to have to wait a looooooong time and do something really new (NOT a new kind of plastic peripheral) to revive this one.

  • Rock Band Dominates anyways but I might take a look into this I have both games and Guitar Hero had some nice Song selections…

  • @Dan Amrich

    I have a better idea. Sign all of your ownership rights for the music on those discs to Harmonix so we can get those tracks on RB3. Maybe even allow us to use the DLC. I refuse to touch Guitar Hero ever again. Activision has run it into the ground like so many other things. At least EA got a clue this generation.

    I really am serious about signing that music over and even potentially allowing them to use your DLC and even the discs music downloaded onto the PS3 hard drive for use in RB3. Not like you guys are ever going ot use those rights ever again once your last few discs leave shelves. At least with my suggestion those discs will clear quickly if we are able to import them onto RB3.

    • Unfortunately, music licensing does not work that way, and the rights for one game cannot be so easily transferred into another. Harmonix has done a fantastic job of licensing tracks for RB, and there are lots of songs that appear in both games — but that’s the only way something like that can happen. RB has to license its tracks independently, just as it’s been doing for years.

  • @CerulianThunder No one cares what you like or don’t like.

  • I enjoyed GH for many years since its release on the Xbox 360. It slowly died for me when I started playing Rock Band. GH was a warlord of its time and many people agreed that it was. Rock Band just became the juggernaut and beat down GH. GH5 was the best of the series! Then came GH: Warriors of Rock. The songs were awesome, but lacked in what made the games great. Sorry, but Rock Band wins the fight. It’s also sad to hear DJ Hero will no longer continue. I’m a working DJ and enjoyed the game. DJ Hero 1 sucked…sorry…but then did a big awesome job to add famous DJ’s in DJ Hero 2. The mixes were fresh and worked together. deadmau5, Tiesto, David Guetta, the RZA were an inspiration for me to do my own mixes rather than just put cd’s in a pc. You may have lost the battle, but hopefully you will pull together to think what to do. Maybe secretly work on a DJ Hero 3??

    • I wasn’t aware it was a fight…! I mean, there’s competition, but “fight” and “music” have never really gone together in my vocabulary. It’s all a matter of personal preference, and I hate to think of “this franchise wins, this franchise loses” when they basically have the same goal: to bring the joy of playing music to non-musicians. It’s a universal language, you know?

  • @GoodFella2487

    Like wise.

  • RIP Guitar Hero

  • Guitar Hero was my game back in the day and i still love it.

  • Good job at killing an entire genre with annual sequels fueled by greed, Acitivision. Next stop, CoDVille.

  • Harmonix was the genius behind the concept. They jumped from GH to RB (after GH2) – which then took a few iterations to get just right would of been the best the genre could hope for. Instead, activision had to do what they do best and milk GH for all they could before ditching it.

  • Here’s a hint for the future. Activision of all companies seems to have the biggest problem with this.

    Gamers don’t want to see the same game over and over and over again. GH was exactly that. Nothing innovative ever happened with the GH series that made it really stand out. All GH became was a “new game” with different music that wasn’t on the last one, and in cases became just remakes of previous games combines into one (GH Greatest Hits).

    Music found that out quickly. If you don’t innovate music and everything sounds exactly the same, it quickly becomes stale. To be successful you’ve got to have your own sound and style, not just copy everybody else out there.

    If, and this is a big if, you ever make a new GH, do something different. RB successfully did that with RB3. Adding the new type of instruments in my opinion really set it apart from the competition (GH) and gave it an edge, particularly in the eyes of true musicians who play actual instuments, as their new instuments are as close to the real thing as you’re going to get.

    • I strongly disagree with your opinion that all the GH games are the same — so much so that I have to question whether you’ve played all the games you are now judging with one broad statement. To suggest that, say, GH World Tour is the same game as GH Warriors of Rock denies all the improvements and changes that surround the core expeirence. Yes, the main gameplay is pressing buttins in time with music — just as the main elements of, say, Tomb Raider and Uncharted are very similar. But it’s how each of them approaches it, how they improve as they go — sometimes subtly, sometimes greatly — that sets each game apart. I would ask that you extend that same depth of research to Guitar Hero, because a blanket statement like that doesn’t feel informed, from my experience. Look closer.

      You can still prefer Rock Band’s approach, but it’s unfair and inaccurate to discount what GH has brought…some of which appeared in GH games first, and later appeared in RB. Influence and innovation swings both ways!

  • All in all Activision could’ve been selling each and every song that came from future GHs as DLC and you’ve have a major game full of music options. Instead Activision chose to go the route of releasing twelve different Guitar Hero games or variations of the game (Band Hero… Really, same thing…) in the 2006 to 2010 period. That’s essentially three GH games per year. Then add on the three other GH titles that came to portable… That’s 15 games in four years. That’s… Well, really milking it dry and then some.

    Quality > Quantity

    Plus ugh… Those guitars are extremely cheaply made, something that shows by how many fail and need to be replaced.

    • Well, two things on that: One, all those games were clearly not aimed at the same audience. There was no real expectation that the people interested in GH Metallica would be interested in Band Hero and vice versa — the way you phrase it, it’s as if Activision expected everybody to buy every game. And that’s simply not the case. Different music appeals to different people — so focusing on different types of music in different games does make sense. I agree that it wound up being too much too fast, but I do see some of the thinking that went into that approach.

      Also, had all the on-disc songs been released as DLC the way you suggest, it would have cost a fortune. The on-disc collections wound up being a very good value in comparison to DLC prices. I also asked why Smash Hits, in particular, wasn’t DLC, but then I ran the numbers and realized…wow, that’s a better deal than piecemeal.

  • I really had fun with this game, I finally got my ps3 last christmas and feel sad about the news on this game, I wish I can have it now!

    • Well, you certainly can — I mean, they are not pulling the games from shelves, and they are not taking DLC down. That’s why I noted toward the end of the article that these games are there for whenever you want to enjoy them going forward. Just because they are not making new ones right now does not mean the ones out there cease to exist!

  • Well, two things on that: One, all those games were clearly not aimed at the same audience. There was no real expectation that the people interested in GH Metallica would be interested in Band Hero and vice versa — the way you phrase it, it’s as if Activision expected everybody to buy every game. And that’s simply not the case. Different music appeals to different people — so focusing on different types of music in different games does make sense. I agree that it wound up being too much too fast, but I do see some of the thinking that went into that approach.

    Also, had all the on-disc songs been released as DLC the way you suggest, it would have cost a fortune. The on-disc collections wound up being a very good value in comparison to DLC prices. I also asked why Smash Hits, in particular, wasn’t DLC, but then I ran the numbers and realized…wow, that’s a better deal than piecemeal.

  • I love Harmonix. Bought every single one of their games since Amplitude on day one. Got FreQuency after Amplitude but either way i love every single series they’ve made. The number of hours i spent on Amplitude online and is [DELETED]. RIP Amplitude. Damn you SCEA :(
    I still chill out on the RockBand forums a lot and play Rock Band essentially daily though. :D

    That being said, I WANT PRO GUITARS TO BE SOLD IN CANADA. But anyway. <.< I have all the Guitar Hero games too (i've bought them all [since GH Rocks The 80s] used, as i do with all Activision games. Only one i got new was when i bought my Guitar Hero DS bundle) so i'll check out this contest in a sec. Hopefully canadians are included, though we probably aren't lol.

    Dan, if you ever talk to Alex Rigopolus, tell him we need a sequel to Amplitude. And also tell him to tell his brother to get Honest Bob DLC on the RBN. :p kthx. lol

  • Oh, just wanted to add that im gonna totally miss Guitar Hero’s Expert+ mode. :( RIP double bass pedals. Hopefully they’ll make at least one more game and it’ll support ION symbols. Or update their old games (doubtful lol) to support’em. :p

  • Wait, you can’t stop just yet! I never got my Guitar Hero: Rammstein game!

  • For some reason I all ways liked gh better than rb. My favorite ghs was either legends of rock or warriors of rock. I hope all the gh teams find new jobs that support them R.I.P GH.

  • just entered the contest,cool prizes! this is a nice way to say thank you to the fans.btw,thank you for having this contest :)

  • The first 2 was fun and seeing what GH3 did on the PS3 was great too but then it became repetitive, nothing new other than songs. What they did with the latest GH game was stupid. The only GH game I really enjoyed was GH: Metallica.

  • wow theres alot of bashing goin on in here and its unfortunate. guitar hero was the game to start all the music gaming craze, its continued innovations, as subtle as some were, helped define how future rythm based music games played. like was stated above inspiration goes both ways, and we see it in every genre of media, not just games.

    congrats on a great run guitar hero, looking forward to what you have in store for us when you make your return.
    until then bask in a vacation from one of the most noteable titles in gaming.

  • Well… I’m going to miss GH it was one of not the best Music based game I’ve ever played. Thanks for the good years GH and hopefully someday soon you’ll be reborn.

  • While I love the GH games (I recently counted six discs in my game library), there are certain things that make me prefer RB, especially when I’m playing with friends.

    First of all, song importing. It’s true that you could import songs from World Tour and 5 into Warriors of Rock, but importing 35 out of 85 songs, to me, was LAME!! However, they fixed that a lot with 5 (even if I miss several songs like Plug In Baby or Incinerate) and Metallica, which was a really awesome bonus. At least in RB you could export nearly all of your songs from previous games.

    Second, though I get the rationale to go full-band after the success of RB, to a lot of people it was perceived as a “me-too” move. Maybe it would have been different if it had stayed guitar-only, but to me that move damaged a lot the credibility of the GH brand.

    Even if I sound really negative, I can’t thank this game enough for all the awesome bands that I discovered through their entire catalog: Weezer, Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, Heart, Blue Oyster Cult, and so many more I can’t even start to describe. That, in and by itself, compensates for all the nitpicks I previously mentioned.

    So… so long GH (for now). Thanks for the long run! :D

  • Do Not Want. That’s what happens when you make the same game every freaking year. i used to be a fan of guitar hero. I played GH1 and GH2, but the franchise went to the crapper after GH3. from there it was a guitar hero game like every 6 months.

    the same is going to happen with COD. thats why i hate activision.

    • There were a lot of GH games released in a short period of time, and I think that definitely added to the fatigue. Unfortunately, I also think a lot of people focused on the frequency of release rather than the games themselves, and as a result, they didn’t give them a fair chance, and they don’t recognize what good ideas were in there (and how some of those ideas were later adopted by other games as well).

  • Whoa….An Activision related post that’s not about Call of Duty.

    You know, I’ve enjoyed Guitar Hero 2 & 3, They were really fun and both had good songs but when it started to venture into spin offs like GuitarHero: Areosmith and releasing more GH games in one year, I just suddenly lost interest in them especially when Rock Band came out. Hopefully, with this franchise break, you guys can come back with a new fresh set of paint and Innovation and focus on one GH game.

    Other than that, Is Tony Hawk games also on hold/Break?

  • Rock Band > Guitar Hero

  • I wasnt really into the game when it came out but the first time I picked it up, I found it to be pretty innovative. I cant stand Activision though sadly. Kotick is really out of touch with reality.

  • Ah Guitar Hero, I remember when I loved the 1st and 2nd one. Then came 3 and after that, it just went way down hill. I don’t blame the team that makes GH for this though. It’s difficult to innovate when Activision forces you to crap out a sequel year, after year, after year. The sequels just came way too fast for this series and it killed it. The same sort of thing happened to the Tony Hawk games too. A sad story because I really did love the first two guitar hero games, but all I can say is thank you Activision for killing a good series, I can only imagine how much Activision would crap their pants if Call of Duty suffers the same fate. Anyway hope the GH development team gets a better publisher to work for.

  • Please come back. If GH goes away, RB will get lazy!
    I wish you success and look forward to new and exciting titles!

  • i spent some many weekends rocking with my friends to knights of cydonia and talk dirty to me on legends of rock.. that was my guitar hero peak.. after that it got boring and repetitive… R.I.P Guitar Hero..

  • Can’t really blame people for taking advantage of a property to make as much money as they can. I think their was only so far they could have evolved it from where it was in the beginning. Personally I always liked Rock Band better more so because I think music games are made to be played with other people, but you can’t deny Guitar Hero’s early success.

    Kudos to Harmonix for coming up, and executing, a great idea.

  • i love guitar hero, and i’ll keep it in my heart forever!
    long live to Activision!!

  • good day dan nice to see u posting but im afraid uve lost guys!!!! the only 1 worth playing was gh3 the best tracks the best guitar and the best gh game ever all the games after seemed stale compared to this work of awsomness i spent months trying to learn the dragonforce tracks and the game introduced me to songs i had never heard i bought all the dlc loved the soothsayer track plus the muse tracks they were manic on expert.
    there will never be annother gh game that will match 3 imho and ive played them all. i will say though (and thanks to your recomendation via twitter) that warriors of rock nearly got the magic back but didnt feel as good as 3.


  • as for the guitars failing ive only ever taken 1 back as the strum bar was knackerd from day 1 but other than that my gibson controller is still getting a finger bashing and still works like it did day 1
    and as far as activision is concernd there scum they are like the church money grabbing scum who buy up studios and then destroy them like no other game company can not that it reflects u dan but there ethics are a bit skewed most of the time and what they did to infinity ward was just wrong but its come back to haunt them now after the stale black ops ppl dont take cod games serious anymore and its sad, just think if they had treated there best devs better we would be playing mw3 now and think WOW how awsome is this game!!!!

    but now EA will now the wealth with both DICE and the guys from IW both making them FPS its gonna be hard for activision to match ether of them and u gotta admit battlefield 3 is looking very special indeed

    but keep up the awsome job u do ur 1 part of activision that hasnet had visions of grandure and ill follow u til otherwise

  • In Guitar Hero Metallica, can you play in Fast mode…….In Rock Band 2 you can set it so the notes flow faster on screen. I was wondering if GH Metallica has that feature as well, also, if anyone reads this, does Rock Band 3 have that feature also?

    • In GH, that is known as the hyperspeed cheat. Give a search for the game in question and you’ll likely find the code needed to unlock hyperspeed in that game.

  • gutar hero is so awsome my opinion any game that has a gutar and good music to play is f****** awsome

  • AGAIN,

    IT’S U.S. ONLY.


  • Entered

  • For the future people and the people that already said “All Guitar Hero games are the same”, I say, NO they’re NOT, its a experince, GH1-GH2 we’re kinda the same, GH3 was kinda different, better graphics, famous rockers example, Slash,. master recordings, harder songs and less classic rock :(, the option to buy more songs, and much more features.

    GH World Tour added instruments, kinda better graphics, career, mode, touch strip on guitar, Jimi Hendrix, create a character, GH tracks, thats where you create your own song for people that don’t know.

    GH5: Much better graphics, better career mode, party mode, Kurt Cobain, a lot of songs, and much more….

    GH Warriors of Rock: Better graphics, AWESOME Career Mode, different experince like DanofSword, said about GH5, Warrior characters, a unlock system ezrn rewards by earning stars from playing songs, ‘The Hero Feed’ I think its called, check what your friends are doing in the GH world, you can post your song score on Twitter and Facebook, its more social as you can tell.

  • How do you enter?, i’m keep on clicking the link and its not helping me how to enter.

  • Its the thing with Guitar Hero stuff and it says WIN! right?, the page is down.

  • it is a shame that Harmonix and Red Octane couldn’t work together to further the genre (it IS pretty cool That you can use a real guitar on RB3, maybe now PRINCE will release his catalog!) I grew tired of buying peripherals, as that began to take away from the experience…I have GHWT, but I haven’t played it, unfortunately (well, not from this aspect: I make my own music, that was the draw of World Tour for me…It does seem pointless now) I hope innovation wins over multiple releases, in the end.

  • BTW, the giveaway site is down, as was previously mentioned…

  • Really cool way to send the franchise off on its retirement cruise. Kudos, Dan!

    I was worried this series would just get mothballed once profits fell, with no fanfare to celebrate the good work by the decent people at RedOctane, Harmonix, Neversoft, Acti and others over the years. GH is kind of like a long-running band — maybe it made some missteps as it grew big and signed onto a major label, maybe there were too many releases that clouded the gleam of the act from when it was in its prime, but if you can ignore the history and the drama , what you’re left with is a rocking good time.

  • Still got my PS3 GH controller and game where it all started!!!!!


  • Sorry I meant to say PS2!!!

  • @44 When was it previously mentioned?, not in the comments, I read through ALL of them!

  • I thought I saw that guy Dan Amrich in a Xbox magazine like as a writer or something. Maybe a look-alike.

    • I have been writing professionally about games since 1993, which includes the book PlayStation 2 for Dummies and a stint at OXM. I also wrote for GamesRadar, Wired, and a lot of other outlets.

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