Launched in 2005 by RedOctane and Harmonix Music Systems, the Guitar Hero franchise started the explosive wave of home-based music games. Harmonix was bought out by Activision, along with the Guitar Hero name, in 2005, and Harmonix was purchased by MTV Networks, where they went on to make the Rock Band series. Since then, the series has been handled by Activision owned studio Vivarious Visions, which is rumored to have been hit with layoffs alongside this news.
The problem for the beloved series was two-fold: First and foremost, it was an expensive endeavor for both the consumer and the publisher. The publisher had to deal with production costs for the peripherals, as well as licensing costs for the songs, while the consumer was forced to buy and house a large collection of large instruments.
There was also a pretty bad case of over saturation. In a struggling economy, consumers weren't ready to drop the cash on the series, which saw 24 different incarnations across platforms, not including the iterations from its rival, Rock Band.
The shift isn't all that surprising for anyone who noticed the ten-foot stacks of Guitar Hero 5 going unsold at Best Buy over the holidays, but it does mark a definitive shift in the music selling business. Just a couple of years ago, the record industry was banking on sales from these games to help push along their content.
How the hell is Soundgarden going to sell a million copies of their greatest hits package now?