×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Can Music Videogames Make a Successful Comeback?

It was just four years ago that music games were declared dead. And the person making the pronouncement was the one who had benefited most from it.

“It’s just not a category that’s getting consumers enthusiastic right now,” Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said on CNBC. “I think you need to focus your resources on the things that get consumers really excited.”

Activision’s “Guitar Hero” franchise had sold $3 billion during its initial five-year lifespan, but the last installment in the series — “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” — sold fewer than 261,000 copies, with nine different SKUs on the market.

Around the same time, the competing “Rock Band” franchise seemed to fade away as developer Harmonix focused on other parts of the music genre with games like “Dance Central.”

Now both are back and receiving plenty of attention at E3.

“We brought it back because our fans really wanted it to come back, they just wanted something new,” says Jaime Jackson, studio head in charge of the “Guitar Hero” franchise.

At Harmonix, makers of the new (and original) “Rock Band,” the story is similar.

“We have a bunch of ideas for where we want to take the franchise,” says Harmonix CEO Steve Janiak. “The [older] consoles weren’t powerful enough. The new engine we’ve made for this generation will offer new functionality and allow personal expression.”

Both games will offer fans a large collection of new music to play on the games’ instruments — some classic tunes and some of the big hits since the original versions of the franchise were available.

Developers always have new directions they want to take a franchise, though. For publishers, the return of these games is a timing decision. As consoles enter their third holiday season this year, the push for a wider mainstream audience begins, and family-friendly entertainment (particularly with brands that are already known and don’t require an awareness-building campaign) is becoming more important.

“There is a huge opportunity for the publisher that can come up with entertainment experience that will attract casual audiences to a new set of platforms,” says John Taylor, managing director of Arcadia Investment Corp.

Whether the world is ready for a new round of plastic instruments, though, is another matter.

“We knew our fans wanted new gameplay, which is why we changed our guitar,” says Jackson. “It doesn’t look like a toy anymore. We want a really robust product that’s not going to break. It looks like an aspirational piece of equipment.”

Harmonix, meanwhile, is attempting to make as many existing instruments (from the last round of music playing games) compatible with “Rock Band 4” as possible, so people can buy just the $60 software.

While the instruments might be recyclable, Janiak says the game is brand new. And from a publisher and developer standpoint, that only underscores the risk.

“It’s a pretty big investment,” he says. “The tech involved in this is quite complicated.”

More Music

  • Jussie Smollett court

    Jussie Smollett's Attorneys Say He Was Victim of Police 'Spectacle'

    Jussie Smollett’s legal team issued a defiant statement on Thursday night, saying the “Empire” actor feels betrayed by the justice system and hinting at a political motive for his prosecution. Smollett was arrested early Thursday on a felony charge of filing a false police report. He was released after a court hearing on $100,000 bond, [...]

  • Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat Is

    Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat to Skip Oscar Ceremony

    Best score nominee Alexandre Desplat will be unable to attend Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies because of recent throat surgery, a rep for the composer confirms. The French native, already a two-time Oscar winner (for 2014’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and 2017’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated this year for his Japanese-flavored score for Wes Anderson’s “Isle [...]

  • Credit: Photo by Adela Loconte/REX/Shutterstock (9788964b)Gary

    Gary Clark Jr. Finds the Right Words, as Well as Solos, on New Album

    From the scorched earth rock and anti-racist (and anti-Trump-ian) howl of its title tune to the pounding country-blues of “The Governor,” with its cynical take on social justice issues, Gary Clark Jr.’s third studio effort, “This Land,” does what none of the 35-year-old singer-guitarist’s albums have in the past: it puts his mouth where his [...]

  • Heather Parry Live Nation

    Heather Parry Fired From Live Nation Productions

    Live Nation Entertainment announced Thursday that Heather Parry will leave the company following a Variety investigation into allegations of workplace bullying. Parry ran Live Nation Productions, the TV and film arm of the touring conglomerate, for three years. In December, Variety reported that Live Nation’s human resources department had been repeatedly warned that Parry was [...]

  • Maxine Waters

    Maxine Waters Reacts to Jussie Smollett Arrest: 'I Would Be Disappointed' if It's a Hoax

    Maxine Waters said she “would be disappointed” if it’s proven that her friend Jussie Smollett staged his own attack. Speaking with Variety‘s Marc Malkin on Thursday at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards, the U.S. representative from California said, “If in fact it’s a hoax, of course I would be disappointed.” Smollett faces one felony [...]

  • Beck House

    Beck Lists Updated Vintage Traditional in Los Feliz (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mononymically known indie music iconoclast Beck, who took home his sixth and seventh Grammys earlier this year for his 13th studio album (“Colors”), has put one of the three homes he and wife Marisa Ribisi own along the same, gated street in a coveted neighborhood of L.A.’s Los Feliz area for $2.45 million. The couple [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content