Jamming on plastic guitars and pretending to sing at parties was all the rage back in the 2000s thanks in large part to Harmonix and RedOctane who made the rock and roll rhythm game genre famous with the first Guitar Hero game back in 2005. Then, in 2006, Activision stepped in and Yoko Ono'd the duo, taking RedOctane for its own, and sending Harmonix into the arms of MTV Games and publisher EA, where it started its own revenge franchise, Rock Band.
Eager to cash in on the music game craze (and justify the millions it spent on RedOctane), Activision called up its own Tony Hawk developer Neversoft to control the retail beast Harmonix had released for PS3 and Xbox 360, signing on Vicarious Visions, Budcat Creations, and Aspyr Media to spread the Guitar Hero mojo to Wii, DS, PS2, and PC, respectively. Neversoft accepted its most sacred task, and proceeded to clutter living rooms with fake instruments through the release of an estimated 2.9 billion sequels and iterations of the Guitar Hero brand. By 2010, player tastes had moved to the dance game genre (in which Harmonix was already killing it with Dance Central), and Guitar Hero had become a washed-out, drug-addled husk of its former self. One year later, Activision pulled the plug on its once legendary performer, and Guitar Hero has been playing small town bars ever since.
Hand-off results: Under Neversoft's watch, Harmonix's creation went on to become one of the hottest selling properties in Activision's stable. The games sold tens of millions, and the downloadable song market became one of the hottest and most lucrative trends in DLC. As such, it's difficult to lay the blame for Guitar Hero's demise on Neversoft's performance, when Activision's ceaseless milking of the franchise seems a more likely suspect. Could Harmonix have kept the flame alive? We'll never know, but the company is at least trying to reignite it with the upcoming downloadable Rock Band Blitz.