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Poor Guitar Hero!?!

February 19, 2011

It is sad to hear that Guitar Hero is coming to an end. It’s a great game and I’ve had a lot of fun playing it. Given that at one point it generated $1,700 million in retail revenue – what happened? Games Brief has a great analysis of an answer – from which these reasons caught my eye…

– The music labels were difficult: My guess is that music labels asked for minimum guarantees and onerous terms, the same issues that have stopped Spotify from launching a US service and killed endless music download and streaming services before they launched.

– Activision viewed Guitar Hero as a product franchise, not a service: The mechanism Activision chose to exploit the franchise was a series of retail releases for high profile bands. These were working-capital intensive, involving console royalties, inventory, distribution, retail margin, marketing and (probably) music advances. If a product didn’t do well, that left Activision losing a lot of money. A service-based approach, driven by downloads, would have cut out many of these costs, enabling Activision to use many different artists, with smaller followings, and still be profitable.

The music industry does seem to want to make life hard for itself as it struggles to get digital…  As for the other point; the whole article is worth reading – but this point of games as a service – to me is key – and if that is where it went wrong, well it’s triple sad. Its sad to see the end of a great game, sad for the developers losing thier jobs and sad such an obvious candidate for ‘games as a service‘ could not be made to work.

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