Guitar Hero Live failed to do the business, too

Another bad day for string theory.

Hot on the heels of Rock Band 4's failure to meet sales expectations, Activision has said Guitar Hero Live also didn't do the business.

In a financial call last night, Activision said Guitar Hero Live, which launched last year against direct competitor Rock Band 4, suffered "lower than expected performance". That's corporate speak for didn't sell well enough.

It was a similar story for Rock Band 4, whose publisher Mad Catz cut 37 per cent of staff after Rock Band "sell-through was lower than originally forecast". This, Mad catz said, resulted in "higher inventory balances as well as lower margins due to increased promotional activity with retailers". In other words, Rock Band 4 didn't sell well enough, so shops cut the price, resulting in less money coming in to Mad Catz.

It's a disappointing return for the peripheral-based music video game genre, which had been on hiatus ever since Activision killed the Guitar Hero series back in 2011 after flagging sales.

What went wrong? There are a number of theories. One suggests people are today less willing to fork out their hard-earned cash for costly peripherals than they were six or seven years ago. Then there's the suggestion that there simply wasn't the appetite for peripheral music video games in the first place. After all, who wants more clutter?

As for the games themselves, well, both had problems. Where Guitar Hero Live sought to change things up with a first-person perspective and a live audience, its lack of backwards compatibility put off those who'd already spent money on songs in the past.

And while Rock Band 4 made a song and dance about backwards compatibility, on PlayStation 4 in Europe hundreds of songs were unavailable, despite being available in North America and on Xbox One.

But is this a premature end for Guitar Hero and Rock Band's second life? Activision's plan for Guitar Hero Live all along was for it to act as a platform from which it could sell new downloadable content. In the financial call last night, Activision Publishing boss Eric Hirshberg reaffirmed the company's promise not to release another full Guitar Hero game this generation - or "cycle", as he put it.

Here's the quote:

  • Next, Guitar Hero Live is a fun, high-quality game that introduced innovative new game play to fans, including the GHTV platform, which keeps our community engaged and will allow us to cost-effectively deliver new content and build our installed base. We plan to release new content, but not another full Guitar Hero console game this cycle.

Developer FreeStyle Games will be hoping Guitar Hero Live carves out a large-enough audience for itself that Activision sticks with the plan to support it with downloadable content. Otherwise, the series could face a second death. To that end, it's just released love songs for Valentine's Day.

As for Rock Band 4, developer Harmonix has already outlined its plan to support the game with new songs and game updates. But it faces an uphill battle globally and, particularly, in Europe, where PS4 owners continue to express their anger at the lack of DLC tracks.

I've reported a number of times on the plight of Rock Band 4 PS4 owners. Only this morning I received yet another email from another understandably upset player, who told me Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and Harmonix still haven't got their act together. Here's a snippet that sums up the current mood:

  • Ever since the game's launch, SCEE customers of Rock Band 4 have been finding it extremely difficult to access legacy content which was promised. Myself and many others have purchased the game on this premise, but then left sorely disappointed when content fails to materialise.
  • It is very hard watching SCE America and Xbox One customers worldwide be happy to get their content (reading content on the official Harmonix forums and social media), whilst us on SCEE cannot even get an acceptable response on factors causing the delay.
  • Currently, we are awaiting the export for Rock Band 1 to be made available. It was released on SCEA mid-January and Xbox worldwide shortly after. The remaining exports have just been made available to Xbox worldwide also, so it is a real kick in the teeth for SCEE users. We're all fed up of hearing the same things 'soon', 'hang tight', 'be patient' etc. It's as if we're the less favoured child of the family.

But with poor sales of Rock Band 4 in Europe, will SCEE prioritise pushing through the many hundreds of pieces of DLC to the PlayStation Store? Critics will say it's the lack of support that contributed to poor sales - or at least poor post-launch sales - in the first place. Chicken and egg.

Did you pick up either Rock Band 4 or Guitar Hero Live? What do you think of the situation? Perhaps you decided against buying either game. If so, why?

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