The Guitar Hero video game franchise is officially dead. According to publisher Activision, which will close its music game division and cease development of existing Guitar Hero titles, they're ending the series in order to refocus efforts online.
“Due to continued declines in the music genre, the company will disband Activision Publishing's Guitar Hero business unit and discontinue development on its Guitar Hero game for 2011,” the company said in its most recent financial statement. “These decisions are based on the desire to focus on the greatest opportunities that the company currently has to create the world's best interactive entertainment experiences."
Insiders expect that the firm will shift its attention to multiplayer, social and online connected play, a field currently characterized by all-digital products including iPhone, Facebook and downloadable casual games.
The news comes on the heels of lackluster sales performance by last holiday season’s Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Game industry news site Eurogamer also reports that severe layoffs have hit DJ Hero developer FreeStyle Games, though the future of the virtual disc jockey franchise, also a retail underperformer, has yet to be confirmed.
Signs look bleak for the music gaming industry, with MTV Games recently shuttered by Viacom following the fire sale of Rock Band creator Harmonix, which in turn dropped Rock Band Network support for Wii. As reported earlier, gaming analysts believe the pressure to convince cash-strapped shoppers to pay $60 for too-similar annual updates, let alone $100+ for new plastic peripherals, to be too much to sustain.
With the video game industry known for regularly reintroducing new franchises or translating hit titles to new devices, it’s entirely possible Guitar Hero will live on in mobile or social formats. Given potential profits from the sale of digital song downloads and updates, much cheaper to make and deliver than physical goods, it’s also unlikely that the company will completely cut off customers who want to expand the libraries on their existing games.
But at least for now, the days of rushing out to GameStop to grab a giant plastic axe controller are over.