Thursday, October 07, 2010

I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe

I have never wanted so badly to be wrong.

I realized today that I've spent more time on Guitar Hero/Guitar Hero2/Rock Band/Rock Band 2/The Beatles (Harmonix branch of the family) than on any other gaming series in my life. I've certainly enjoyed it more than any other series, and there's not even a close second. I've written many times about the unerring brilliance of Harmonix, because they deserved it. Harmonix is Valve, or Blizzard, in terms of quality.

That's why it pains me so much to say that Rock Band 3 is dead.

Let me clarify that. I don't mean it's dead in a quality sense, because I am sure it will be every bit as outstanding as the other games in the series. It's going to be great, and I will play it for hundreds of hours.

I just don't know who else will.

This genre is dead. Dead. I expect Guitar Hero: Goofus Or Gallant to sell very poorly, and even though Rock Band 3 will be an exponentially better game, it's going to sell poorly as well. There is zero buzz right now, and we're less than three weeks from launch.


Consider this. In response to what appears to be a rapidly shrinking audience, Harmonix made design decisions that appeal to the hard-core. Full cymbal charting. Pro mode for instruments. Hell, this game is going to help me learn how to play guitar (hurry up, Squier).

Those are the greatest decisions ever, for me, but how many "me's" are out there? Not nearly as many as there are "them's," and I think that's going to be suicidal in a commercial sense. Or maybe it's not suicide. Maybe it's just a natural death. Maybe everyone who wants to play on little plastic instruments has played on them, and they're moving on. Rock Band 3 will have exponential appeal, but to a much smaller audience, and that's going to be death.

I think this is the last great release of a great, great series of games. Harmonix will keep making games, and they'll keep being great, but I think this is the end of the road for Rock Band. I don't think there will be a Rock Band 4. I would be very surprised to see a new Guitar Hero game next year, either. It appears that this genre, after enjoying phenomenal and stunning popularity, has played itself out.

Here's what I'm hoping. I'm hoping we survive long enough for Harmonix to release 150+ Pro mode guitar charts, with charts for The Beatles as well. I would be thrilled to see all that content, and it would keep us busy for the next 10 years, easily.
Yes, it's death, but in a noble way. How many companies have ever had this sequence of Metacritic scores over five games? 91, 92, 92, 92, 89.

That's five years of unsurpassed brilliance, and seriously, anyone who gave The Beatles only an 89 should have their freaking sanity checked, because it was a masterpiece.

Like I said in the opening, I've never wanted so much to be wrong. Big wrong. I hope this game sells five million copies. Or ten.

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