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Are you going to buy an Xbox One X This Holiday Season?

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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
RedOctane
DEVELOPER:
Harmonix
GENRE: Music
PLAYERS:   1-2
RELEASE DATE:
November 01, 2005
ESRB RATING:
Teen


IN THE SERIES
Guitar Hero Live

Band Hero 2

DJ Hero 2

DJ Hero 2

DJ Hero 2

More in this Series
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on January 22, 2010

Special: Before Harmonix started a Rock Band, they made us all feel like rock gods.


The Most Influential Games of the Decade
Grand Theft Auto III | Halo
Guitar Hero | Wii Sports

Though numerous high-quality games are released every year, only a handful truly make an impact on gaming as a whole; the kind of games that shape future development as developers and publishers scramble to get in on the Next Big Thing. Gaming Target's Most Influential Games of the Decade separates the wheat from the chaff by revisiting one of the most fascinating decades in gaming history, to pluck five games from a very competitive ten-year cycle. Each game did something so huge that it either affected how games are made, solidified a console as a legitimate must-own, or altered how we played games. This isn't a list of the best games of the decade; instead these are the games that you'll look back at in twenty years and remember how they influenced an entire era.

From humble beginnings...
In the middle part of the decade, Red Octane ? a company more known for their Dance Dance Revolution dance pads and other various accessories ? had an idea. They wanted to make a game about rock & roll that used a replica guitar as the input device, similar to Konami's Guitar Freaks, a series that never left Japan and thus barely existed here. But as a hardware specialist, they didn't really have a development studio. So they made a call to Massachusetts-based Harmonix Music Systems, a tiny developer best known for the Sony-published Frequency and Amplitude. Harmonix agreed and Guitar Hero was born, set to release in the busy 2005 holiday season on PlayStation 2. The concept was simple ? use the ?fret buttons? to select colored notes, while using the ?strum bar? to actually play them, similar to playing a real guitar. Releasing with roughly 30 cover versions of popular rock and metal hits for an affordable $70, the first Guitar Hero was actually something of a slow-burning cult hit. Red Octane managed to get the game on display all over the place, and over time the game became a popular party hit.



From one instrument to four...
However, the guitar-based rhythm genre didn't really take off for another couple years. In early 2006, Activision bought out Red Octane, making their powerful marketing arm a key ally in bringing the game to the masses. Guitar Hero II released to much fanfare, especially on the brand new Xbox 360 which saw the game release on that platform in the earlier months of 2007... after original developer Harmonix was bought by MTV Games. 2007 was when it all clicked, however. Develped by Neversoft, Guitar Hero III became one of the best selling games of the decade, selling well over ten million copies on PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. Finally using more original songs than covers, plus wireless guitars, GHIII was a phenomenon; it seemed like everyone owned a copy of the game in some form. But what of Harmonix? Working with Activision rival Electronic Arts, Harmonix and MTV Games introduced Rock Band, a music game that was not just about guitars, but about singing and playing the drums. It also pioneered the concept of weekly music downloadables (as the 360 version of Guitar Hero II only dabbled in the concept), something that continues unabated over two years later, with full albums, key singles, and in future months, a full network for music labels to self-publish their songs for purchase.

This is the key to its influence; it's changed how music labels distribute music. Sure, they can release their albums digitally on iTunes or Amazon; but to let people actually play the music instead of just listening was an enticing prospect. If you want any ultimate hint of the influence of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, look at The Beatles Rock Band. As of early 2010, you cannot buy any of their music digitally, you can only buy it in a physical form. Yet right now owners of Beatles RB can go to the in-game store and buy individual Beatles songs from three different albums to play. In short, this is the first place one can buy a Beatles song separately without buying actual media. The future Rock Band Network has numerous labels on board to further widen the net, making it an attractive place to sell music and win over new fans. Oddly enough, the game industry hasn't been quite as excited about the franchises, which is what makes this the most unusual entry in our series. There's really been only other game that's tried to ape the formula ? and that's Rock Revolution, a game that felt like a bad trip through an awful time machine. Considering the game is $5 in many places and still doesn't sell...yeah. But it's influence on a completely different form of entertainment is fascinating. To think that it all started with a humble idea for a rock & roll version of DDR.

Yeah, about that original game...
In the year 2010, does that original Guitar Hero hold up? In a word... no. Though the game is just as playable today as it was back then, with the signature Harmonix note charts and balanced difficulty compared to the oftentimes over-charted Neversoft versions. It's just outdated in other ways. Nowadays, we don't get covers ? unless you buy a $5 copy of Rock Revolution ? so a game with nothing but them (along with some original bonus tracks by less-popular artists looking for a good avenue to win new listeners) is a bit difficult on the ears. Back in 2005, nobody cared ? even if it wasn't Ozzy, you were rocking out to Bark at the Moon! But today, when every Guitar Hero and Rock Band release is 100% original music, it's not quite as fun. The short career is also a bummer compared to the 80 song rockfests we get nowadays, a clear sign of respect from the music industry who has gotten behind the genre in a big way. Back in the days of the original Guitar Hero, those same people probably thought the whole thing was a farce that was sure to be ignored and vanish from store shelves ? most of us probably felt the same way too. But look at the genre now ? it's a well-oiled machine.

One hit wonder?
Unlike the other games in this series, the rock & rhythm genre has become something of an albatross lately. 2009 saw the release of five different Guitar Hero games, and there were three separate track packs and two stand-alone games that bore the Rock Band name. Can you say ?oversaturation? or what? Though Rock Band has managed to remain the class of the genre due to its frequent DLC and classy side-games ? Beatles Rock Band is how a single-band game should always be done, and Lego Rock Band is a unique one-off that serves a purpose ? but retailers are weary of expensive and space-occupying bundles, and we've seen a sharp decline since those peak days of 2007. The genre can still perservere with some smart reorganization and drastic reduction in releases (something Activision is planning on doing this year), but it's still got an uphill climb to reach its former heights. But for a brief period of time, there was nothing hotter in gaming than playing rock music with plastic instruments, and its influence on music as a whole must be noted. It is one of Gaming Target's most influential games of the first decade of the 21st century.



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