Monday, June 27, 2011

DOA, RIP, and Other Unfortunate Initials

On June 10, I posted that Fender had discontinued the Squier controller they'd created for Rock Band.

The post was made on a Friday, and I noted that I'd write more on Monday.

I didn't, though--other stories took over. And do you know how many e-mails I've gotten about it?


Three years ago, if I had promised a post about something related to Rock Band and then not written it, I would have gotten thirty e-mails. Or fifty. We all played, we were all having a great time, and I said several times that Rock Band was a lifestyle game.

And it was.

The Squier controller, and pro mode for guitar, was an incredibly ambitious project from a group of incredibly talented people. It definitely needed nurturing over a period of time to grow the base of people who wanted to learn to play guitar this way. This was a long-term commitment.

Except, for Fender, it wasn't.

I don't how many controllers they sold, but I'm guessing it wasn't that many, and it was well below expectations. Well, I'm not guessing, actually--this is from a Harmonix employee in the Rock Band forums:
...due to significant manufacturing lead times and the quantity currently available in the retail channel, Fender has decided not to place any more back orders for direct fulfillment. That would explain why, as some posters in this thread have pointed out, some music stores are unable to take back orders, but Squiers generally appear to be readily available at Best Buys.

In other words, whatever Fender had built, they built way too many. And while you might interpret that as meaning the Squier has not been discontinued, it would have been very simple for the Harmonix person to simply say that, but they didn't--they did a very careful dance around the specific question.

In other words: it's dead, Jim. I'd like to be wrong on that--but I don't think I am.

I had an indication early on that the Squier was in serious trouble, but I really hoped I was wrong, so for once, I didn't write about it. The tip-off was the leaderboards. I'd play a song on Easy, get three stars, and have some ridiculously high ranking on the leaderboards. On some songs that were DLC, I was in the top 100.

That told me two things right away: Pro mode DLC was selling very poorly, and so was the Squier.

Look, the people at Harmonix are incredibly bright. Even though the little plastic instrument genre has collapsed, and so (apparently) has the Squier, that doesn't mean they can't figure it out. There still might be a sustainable level of development that would keep the franchise alive.

It's also possible that there could be a technical breakthrough. The Squier feels like ass (compared to how a real guitar feels) with the mute bar pushed up (and you have to do that to use it in the game), but what would happen if--somehow--it was possible to use your own guitar in the game? Yes, I know there are lots and lots of technical issues involved with doing that properly, but like I said, these people are staggeringly bright.

I hope they figure it all out. I hope this isn't the death rattle of a brilliant, brilliant life.

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