Latest 'Guitar Hero' may test gaming industry

When it hit stores last month, the fourth installment in the wildly popular Guitar Hero video game became a test of the game industry's ability to weather the broader economic storm.

Activision Blizzard's Guitar Hero World Tour was one of the company's most important games of 2008.

At $NZ399, it is also one of the most expensive games released.

While some analysts still expect the franchise to drum up more than $2.4 billion in sales this year, the title's steep price could turn away some consumers.

"In this economy, people will be a little more frugal," said Ricardo Torres, editor of Gamespot, a website that reviews games.

"It's all about value."

For Aaron Green, who plays Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock with his 9-year-old son Alex, the new game is still a good value.

But the price tag makes him pause.

Instead of splurging on the game when it came out, as he would have in years past, the 43-year-old said he gave the game to his son for Christmas.

"The price is a little steep," Green said. "But we still need our creature comforts to help us feel better."

That's music to the game's creators, who are pitching it as a great bang for the buck.

It comes with a guitar controller, drum kit, microphone and software that lets players create and edit their own music.

"It's like several games in one," said Brian Bright, one of the lead developers. "So you get a lot for your money."

Sarah Wright-Killinger (30) isn't convinced, though she likes to play music games with her husband.

"I'm afraid if I spend money on Guitar Hero, I'm just asking for it," she said. "It's just not the time to be spending money on things like that."

To persuade reluctant consumers, Activision is releasing several versions of the title, including a stand-alone game disc for $90, which can be played using guitar controllers from previous versions of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, a competing franchise from MTV Networks.

There's also a $170 version of the game that comes with a guitar controller only. For Activision, hitting the right notes with consumers with World Tour is critical.

The Guitar Hero franchise is "one of the three biggest profit generators" for the company this year, Activision Chief Executive Robert Kotick said.

The company leads the music-simulation category, but MTV is catching up fast, said Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities.

Guitar Hero III, released October 2007, sold 9.1 million copies in the US, said Anita Frazier, market analyst at the NPD Group.

Meanwhile, Rock Band, which came out November 2007 in the US, has sold 3.5 million copies.

"Activision needs this game to keep Rock Band from gaining market share," Pachter said.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter