Activision broke up the band yesterday, officially shutting down its Guitar Hero business unit, cancelling the 2011 installment of the series and calling an end to the flow of new downloadable content for the series. Today, analysts are split on whether the franchise could have avoided this fate and if they expect Activision to eventually attempt a comeback for the series.
Speaking with GameSpot today, Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich downplayed the suggestion that Activision's enthusiastic release schedule for the series--including seven separate Hero titles in 2009 alone--contributed to its decline.
"When the first Guitar Hero was sold, the time clock of its success and ultimate demise started and there wasn't a single strategy Activision could have implemented to hinder it," Divnich said. "If Activision hadn't flooded the market, someone else would have, and the state of the music genre in 2011 would have been unchanged. There is absolutely nothing Activision nor anyone could have done to save the music genre."
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said Activision could have likely improved the Guitar Hero franchise's life span if had better managed the games' tracklists and instrument peripherals.
"The biggest flaw in the model was that the peripherals were always 'good enough,'" Pachter said, "meaning that once you bought the band kit, you didn't need to upgrade to next year's version. One of the selling points was the breadth of the music offering, and most games had 60-80 songs, so it was tough to justify buying another game when you still had 40 songs you hadn't tried on last year's version."
While Pachter believes there will always be some demand for the Rock Band and Guitar Hero style of rhythm game, it's not one he expects Activision to satisfy, saying simply, "I think Guitar Hero is gone for good."
Meanwhile, Divnich thinks the Guitar Hero franchise is not dead, but merely "hibernating."
"It may take three to five years, and likely a whole new generation of consoles, but I see a possibility of a short revival in the future," Divnich said. "Activision is a methodical company, and their continued dominance hinges on the growth of their franchises, not the decline. The resources that would have been used to create the next Guitar Hero will be best served on creating new intellectual properties."
While the pair of gaming prognosticators split on the fate of Guitar Hero, they found themselves in closer agreement on the future of the Tony Hawk franchise, which Activision also ruled out of its 2011 lineup. Pachter said the long-rolling skateboarding series is simply taking a breather, while Divnich said it would return for the next generation of consoles "at the latest."