Our BLOG

The Day the Music Game Genre Died

For those like me who love music as much as they love marketing, last week marked the sad passing of what was once a groundbreaking new video game: Guitar Hero.

On February 9th, Activision announced it will be shutting down its music game division, home to the Guitar Hero series of video games.  Activision also announced the lay off of about 7% of the company's workforce and discontinuation of game development slated for 2011. While there is speculation about the causes of the layoff and discontinuing of the music game offerings, many point to one culprit: oversaturation. In the years following Guitar Hero's initial release the music game genre exploded into it the current offerings of Guitar Hero I, II & III, Rock Band, Band Hero, DJ Hero and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. In just five years, wallets drained and living rooms across the nation began to look more like a Guitar Center then a room in the family home. Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg highlights the company's inability to make the games profitable, largely due to current economies and consumer demand.

Despite the reasons for Guitar Hero's end, it will have a great impact on those who used the music games as a marketing channel, particularly independent record labels. From across the continent I can hear my friends weeping. Not only for the loss of new games to incorporate into the monthly beer-fueled, Guitar Hero rock-a-thons, but for the lost opportunities to market their new artists to millions of potential album and concert ticket purchasing fans. It is this tight group of musicians and independent record labels who will be the most deeply impacted by the loss of the marketing opportunities presented by music genre games.

When it first appeared in 2005, Guitar Hero developers at Red Octane and Harmonix Music Systems offered low cost opportunities to independent record labels and bands to appear on video game soundtracks. Record labels jumped at the chance to market artists using a new channel with a large potential reach. Today, Guitar Hero has shipped over 25 million units, having put budding indie bands like Attack! Attack!, Band of Skulls, Amon Amarth and countless others into the hands of fans that might not necessarily hear them. In the wake of this loss, I'd like to hope the developers will find new homes, fans will retreat to their Rock Band guitars and drum sets, and just as they always have, independent record labels will search out the newest (often gratis) ways to market bands to the masses.

Related Posts

Tackling Unexpected Marketing Situations With Everyday Tools

Marketers have many reasons for getting into advertising. Maybe it’s a fascination with brands or love for creativity. For me, it’s my passion for diving into culture and understanding what motivates people. It doesn’t hurt that my job as a Strategist is incredibly variable and fun. On any given day I could be interviewing men about their relationship with their beards or researching snack food super fans. Even when I worked in the more serious pharmaceutical space, I enjoyed tracking patients' journeys and uncovering their concerns when it came to their health.  But in the past few months much of the joy that came with my role had been replaced with worry as my coworkers and I grappled with the heavy impact of a global pandemic and sweeping social justice movements. The COVID outbreak in the US, murder of George Floyd, and call for brands to boycott Facebook advertising in protest of the platform’s unjust practices seemed to come in quick succession. Many brands had been (rightly) spotlighted for being disingenuous or not contributing at all to the dialogue, and we were thrust into the high-wire act of guiding our clients towards the right decision (if there was even a “right” decision to make).  “I did not sign up for this” This was one of my first thoughts and the thought of several of my coworkers who until this point in their careers had never grappled with anything more serious than a customer complaint. I recognize that this comes from a place of extreme privilege - not only am I in an industry that to me had felt removed from these topics, but I myself had never chosen to actively investigate them as a marketer. After sorting through the flurry of questions and news headlines and finally face to face with these issues, I realized that the work required for “this” was not a far cry from the careful research and planning we’ve always done for our clients. It’s with this realization that we were able to come together and create a plan.  Where do we go from here? Go back to basics Understanding that no two brands are alike, AMP created a framework for approaching crises that could be adapted to each of our clients’ needs and values. After quickly pulling any creative that would contradict the tone of the moment (ex: a social post that encouraged consumers to meet up with friends), we leveraged steps and tools that had served us well in the past when faced with a difficult brand problem.  Take a beat With marketing moving as quickly as it does, it’s natural to want to respond as quickly as possible to an event. The problem with this is that you may not have all the proper information to react appropriately, or understand whether or not it’s necessary to react at all. Much like reviewing a client brief to confirm what they’re asking of the team, taking a minute to assess the issue at hand and the impulse to get involved helped us understand the most logical way forward.  Know your brand In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, several brands were called out for quickly responding, despite the fact that their company and product had no connection to social justice and never been vocal about these issues in the past. This dissonance made communications feel disingenuous to consumers. While the messages may have been lighter in the past, the goal of feeling genuine in our communication has always been a high priority. When building a strategy for a campaign or analyzing competitors, we start with our own brand to make sense of their values and where they stand in the category. We looked inward at our own brands to review their values and past history. Once we had a firm grasp of our brands’ histories, voices, and perceptions, it became easy to know how they would react in any given situation.  Listen to your consumers Henry Ford once (supposedly) said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote is often used in marketing contexts to demonstrate how consumers don't always know the proper solutions for their problems. While this line of thinking often works for communications for laundry detergent or snacks, it should be thrown out the window when it comes to high-stakes situations. A deep understanding of consumers’ needs and motivations is key for any product, but addressing those needs directly was essential in this moment. During the early stages of the COVID outbreak, our grocery clients became essential businesses overnight, with consumers urgently needing information about product availability and store hours. We helped our clients pivot their social channels to provide consumers with the exact information they needed in an otherwise confusing time.  Observe the cultural climate Once we took a minute to assess the situation, looked inward at our own brands, and outward at our consumers, it was time to take a step back and look at the given category and culture at large to give context to our work. While we didn’t want to copy our competitors, it was important to understand who was contributing to the conversation and how they were sharing. Category and cultural research is a standard part of the job, but instead of gathering creative examples and trending memes, we were gathering public statements and news alerts. These pieces of information were added to personalized live dashboards that clients could monitor.   While I most certainly didn’t sign up for the high-stakes events of the past few months (and the inevitable events come November), I take comfort in the familiar and foundational tools I gained in the “before times”, finding ways to adapt and make sense of the (supposed) chaos. This new normal may not be as light, but I’ve been able to find satisfaction in diving into research, solving problems, and finding a way forward.  

Doug Grumet Featured In Retail Digital Ad Spending Report

AMP Agency’s SVP of Media & Analytics, Doug Grumet participated in providing insights for eMarketer’s recently published Retail Services Digital Ad Spending 2020 report. The report looks at trends in Digital Ad spend in the financial service industry.  The report found that US retail digital ad spending will increase by 3.1% this year, to $28.23 billion. This is slightly faster growth than US digital ad spending overall, which will shrink to just 1.7% amid the coronavirus disruption. Retail will remain the largest digital ad spending vertical. Check out the report summary to learn more about why this matters for your brand:  https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-retail-digital-ad-spending-2020

Doug Grumet Featured In Financial Services Digital Ad Spending Report

AMP Agency’s SVP of Media & Analytics, Doug Grumet participated in providing insights for eMarketer’s recently published Financial Services Digital Ad Spending 2020 report. The report looks at trends in Digital Ad spend in the financial service industry.  According to the report, digital ad spending in the US financial services industry will increase 9.7% this year to $19.62 billion. It will be the second-largest spender on digital advertising  behind retail, with a particular emphasis on performance and brand marketing due to the pandemic.  Check out the report summary to learn more about why this matters for your brand:  https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-financial-services-digital-ad-spending-2020