There's nothing actually wrong with Guitar Hero as a game. It's just that last time around there were 14 of them in five years, no wonder everyone was sick of it. Question is, how is the rebooted Guitar Hero Live going to avoid that?
That's where the new GHTV service comes in (just one of Guitar Hero Live's new features). Speaking in this month's Edge, both the game's project director Jon Napier and Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg are clear that it's this they believe will make the difference. So what the hell is it?
It's basically Guitar Hero meets Singstar - a streaming service of music videos that have been through the Guitar Hero-liser (that's a thing now, I've decided). It's made of 30 or 60 minute shows (or individual songs if you're short on time) and combined with a YouTube-meets-Spotify recommendation system to suggest new tracks. Like those services you can leave it playing, picking up the guitar to jam along whenever a song you like comes on, and has a lot of potential to be a party backing track you can dip into as a game or just leave running.
It sounds pretty diverse too with artists as varied as blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr’s and Macbook player Skrillex. The new Guitar Hero controller has also been redesigned with more casual players in mind suggesting the new game is really trying to widen its appeal this time and avoid that 'DragonForce on hard' exclusionary image (although hard options and songs are still promised).
Crucially, it's being built into "a multi- year service," explains the game's projects director Jon Napier. "We have lots of things that we’re putting together now for year one, year two, even year three. Rather than targeting the big holiday release window, we can look at events. We’ll have a schedule, of course, but it won’t be Thanksgiving, it’ll be Glastonbury". The game is promising "the biggest soundtrack of any game in the series to date" says Edge, with Napier explaining that analytics will track the popular stuff and let the studio add new tracks faster. Constant updates are promised post release and using official videos mean songs require minimal processing rather than creating assets and characters that require animating.
Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg is also big on the idea that GHTV could make Guitar Hero Live an on-going concern without wearing the player out. "I think GHTV is a very elegant solution to that," he says. "It allows us to keep the universe constantly updating, so there can be something new, potentially, every time you turn it on". While Guitar Hero kind of killed itself with a glut of disc releases before, Hirshberg thinks the new streaming set up will match the current expectations that "your music universe is going to be constantly updating". He points out that "a lot’s changed in both gaming and music since the last Guitar Hero" but the new GHTV means "we can bring new things to the audience without printing new discs".
The new issue of Edge is out Thursday the 7th of May with with Guitar Hero Live on cover, looking at the development of the new game and talking to the team behind it. Download it here or subscribe to future issues.