A headbanger's blog!

The Demise of a Medium…

Wednesday brought the announcement by videogame publisher Activision that they were shutting down their subsidiary developers who were responsible for the making of their music/rythm based franchise Guitar Hero. The move came in-light of the franchise’s steady decline in sales since 2009, and the current economic climate for the company.

Now there’s no debating the fact that this game helped a new generation discover Heavy Music. It can even be argued that, without their inclusion in the franchise, certain new bands that have achieved popularity, and older bands that have experienced a resurgence, would not have done so without the game. Case-in-point: Dragonforce. Many people hold their song “Through the Fire and Flames”, an inclusion on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, is one of the most difficult songs to be included in any game of the series. This gained the band some level of prestige even outside of player circles and thus undoubtedly helped them achieve their massive popularity. Proof of this came in the surge in CD sales of the band’s then current album, Inhuman Rampage, just after the release of the game in late 2007.

Probably the greatest example of the series’ impact on an established act was in the sales of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. After the game’s release, Activision’s CEO stated that the game had “[…] generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has.”* The band’s best selling album, 1975’s Toys in the Attic, has sold over 8 million copies, while the game has only sold about 3.6 million units. This is testament to how the music-based videogame-genre has provided a strong medium for the discovery and enjoyment of music, as well as having an economic model that is favourable to artists.

But ultimately, is the demise of this medium a bad thing? It honestly seems like kind of a mixed bag…

Firstly, this will deprive the younger generation of the instant gratification it has been given by these games. The onus will now be put back on the music-buying consumer to go and discover new (and old) music on their own via the internet and record stores. That onus may be something of a double edged sword. Some people may not be willing to take the time to discover music that isn’t presented to them on a virtual platter, which Guitar Hero acted as (and, for the moment, Rock Band still does).

However, the percentage of Guitar Hero players who are willing to now take the effort to discover music on their own may find artists that would not be represented on big-title videogames, and thus help those artists grow and continue to make music. Some who grew to love Dragonforce via the game might discover Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, or Agent Steel, and other similar bands. Those who grew to love Metallica through the games might discover Exodus, Testament, Death Angel, or Overkill and love them just as much. It’s those fans that learn a true love of music and discovering it that will have truly gained something from the medium.

So if the players of these games become willing to set down the “guitar” and read, socialize, and explore, then the generation who discovered music through the Activision property may usher in a new age for Rock of all types. But they have to be willing to leave the basement and hit not just the internet, but the streets as well. They’ll need to interact with others who share their tastes and passions, which could lead to the new generation learning real instruments, forming bands, and creating new music…

… so in that spirit, I hope to see you all at the record store, and the show! \m/

*(to view qoute from Activision’s CEO, click here)

(For more information on Aerosmith, visit Aerosmith.com)

(For more information on Dragonforce, visit Dragonforce.com)

(To view the article that inspired this post, click here)

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