So the meter that gauges the esteem I hold for the Guitar Hero franchise has had its needle bouncing back and forth repeatedly over the past couple of months with every tidbit of Guitar Hero 5 news I receive. It went up when I found out GH:WT and GH:SH songs would become exportable. It dropped when I came across the word "some" when describing how many tracks would export. (Note that Rock Band, when they announced track export, said "most.") It went up again when I found out GH5 could play WT DLC. It dropped a little when they said it would play all but 6 DLC (presumably the Hendrix tracks). Now, hot on the heels of the announcement that GH5 DLC won't work in GHWT
, it's hit rock bottom again.
I suppose it's purely an academic exercise since I think at this point I'm too financially invested in the Rock Band franchise to ever deviate, but goddammit, I WANT COMPETITION! COMPETITION IS GOOD! And as of yet, the only reason the GH franchise has been able to compete is because they've aped most of the gameplay elements from Rock Band, from the Guitar/Bass/Drums/Vox setup in the beginning (which is fine by me, because they aso included drum compatibility of sorts) to their about-face regarding the life meter layouts and live star tracking (both changed after WT), inability to rescue band members, and collective vs. individual Star Power pools (both changed for GH5).
"Advancements and innovations made to the franchise?" PULL THE OTHER ONE. What kind of "advancements and innovations" could possibly be so integral to the game that patching GHWT to ignore that extra data is impossible? The only way I couldn't see a patch working is if they've completely overhauled the core structure of the DLC (and by core, I mean, "we've gone and changed the corresponding MIDI notes for the charts and choreography"--in which case, WHAT KIND OF FUCKED UP STUDIO ARE YOU RUNNING?)
I really, honestly don't get it. Activision isn't nearly as big as Microsoft, so did they really think they could get away with what Microsoft tried with Vista and DirectX 10? Did they not realize that the public opinion of that was that Microsoft had so little faith in their final product they decided to take something that didn't have to be exclusive to the new platform and MAKE it so? That on top of the fact that they're shouting "FREE VAN HALEN WITH PRE-ORDER OF GUITAR HERO 5!" is making them look more desperate with every passing second. I don't know if they're more worried about GH5, GHVH, or both.
Not to mention, this is PAID CONTENT. Has Activision not paid attention to the fact that the DLC (including the shelf presence of the Track Packs) is the Rock Band platform's bread-and-butter? That people playing RB1 this very moment can go ahead and play the same Dropkick Murphys song I got last week is one of the greater strengths. HMX/EA have shown that they believe that 1) the DLC they offer is strong enough to keep the franchise running; they don't NEED to worry about releasing a new core title every year and 2) they figure that eventually the new features of later RB core titles alone offer enough incentive to be worth the purchase (and I don't mean HOPO chords and drum solos, I mean things like category sorting, quick-scrolling, solo World Tour, Tour Challenges, Battle of the Bands, and the like).
Harmonix plays it like they own the place, like a boss, despite the fact that they are, in terms of popularity, the underdog. (They're not nearly the underdog as they were when RB2 came out, despite the RB marketing blitz on VH1/MTV/etc., especially now with the Beatles getting their own game.) (Still disappointed that they slapped the Rock Band name on it despite it not being a Rock Band game, franchise OR core title, but I get why they did it, and it hasn't stopped me from anticipating getting a copy and a Gretsch.) The defining moment for the Guitar Hero franchise was when Bobby Kotick used the word "exploit"
when describing what he was looking for in a franchise. Exploit they have, and exploit they continue to do, and at the expense of integrity. Activision feels like the cowardly king trying to justify his crown when another heir apparent is gaining popularity amongst the masses.
I don't want that.
I want Activision to say "THIS IS GUITAR HERO. WE KICK JUST AS MUCH ASS AS THE OTHER GUY, AND WE WILL TREAT YOU WITH THE SAME KIND OF RESPECT THE OTHER GUY DOES." I want them to reinforce their product through quality, not quantity. I want them to give the consumer the same kind of options that Harmonix and EA do. (Know why I refer to "Activision" and not "Neversoft" the way i refer to "Harmonix?" Because anyone who knows their Guitar Hero knows that Beenox was the company working on Smash Hits, and as such is probably the Treyarch to Neversoft's IW.) Every new feature I've seen in GH5 seems to be more gimmicky than fun, and I've already said my piece on digital avatar rock stars (not even digital Shirley Manson can tempt me).
And I sincerely hope that day will come, and soon. That will be the day Guitar Hero becomes, on strengths beyond its franchise name, a viable contender to Rock Band. And if they don't do it soon, there will be more people like me, who have seen RB as the superior product, and will end up pumping so much money into it that they won't WANT to switch franchises because of that.