Since 2010’s Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, there hadn’t been a brand new Guitar Hero game for five years. Since 2005, there had been an average of one Guitar Hero game per year, with the franchise earning over 1 billion dollars in sales and having an impact on the musical taste of the younger generation. It wasn’t until April of 2015 that a new Guitar Hero game would be released on the next-gen console. One of the major changes was the announcement of a brand new guitar controller. The old guitar controller had 5 buttons, whereas the new controller has 6.
When the game was released, it was met with decent reviews from the critics and fans. The Metacritic Metascore for the Xbox One version was 81, but the user score was 5.0, while the PS4 version received a Metascore of 80, with a user score of 6.2. While the reviews from the critics were good and the fans reception mixed, the issues that plagued this game were its sales. Although it had exceeded buys in it’s first week from the previous title and Guitar Hero 5, the actual numbers hadn’t been reported. Activision, the game’s publisher, announced in February 2016 at their quarterly earnings results presentation that their numbers were down from their expectations. The very next month, they announced that fifty employees were let go from Freestyle Games’, who developed the game.
The game had two modes: Career mode and GHTV mode. The career mode was played from the first-person perspective, where the player would perform in front of a dynamic crowd, that will boo if the player performs poorly or cheer if they are doing well. The other mode is the GHTV mode, a video streaming mode where players play along with the music videos to a library of 200 songs on release, with an average of 6 songs being released per week until GHTV was shut down in 2018. There were concerns about micro transactions, as songs in this mode cost Hero cash to play, which could be bought in-game.
The development of the game was long and complicated. There had been plans for a sequel that would be released in 2011, but Activison cancelled plans for it. Then, they tried to make another reboot, but was again cancelled one year into development and all plans for continuing the Guitar Hero franchise were stopped. The proposed game would have had no drums and no singing, with a six string guitar instead of the normal five button guitar controller.
The developers changed from Neversoft to FreeStyleGames as well. Rhythm based video games popularity had dramatically decreased as well, with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and DJ Hero 2 selling 63% less than the previous year’s efforts of Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero and Band Hero.
Considering the changes of developer and how the rhythm genre in video games was beginning to decline, and how the sales were considered disappointing by Activision and the stunted development, and the microtransactions, Guitar Hero Live failed.