The Guitar Hero franchise is a strange breed of casual and hardcore gaming. Accessible to the masses, it bears a similar appeal to the likes of SingStar and the Dance Dance Revolution titles. However, like the latter, it is the hardcore gamers who find themselves most engaged by the series, as it takes time and no small amount of arthritic skill to truly master each game.
The fifth iteration – excluding band- and era-specific titles – arrives next week and is set to whip up a storm at retail. Hitting shelves a mere two days after EA’s heavy-hitter The Beatles: Rock Band, Activision is determined to prove the original axe-wielding series still has what it takes.
“Guitar Hero 5 is all about music variety,” says senior brand manager Ian McClellan. “With 85 songs from 83 artists, Guitar Hero 5 features rock music’s defining hits from some of the biggest rock artists of all time. Nowhere else can you play songs from the White Stripes, Kings Of Leon, Bob Dylan and Vampire Weekend.
“You can also import all of your Guitar Hero: World Tour DLC into the game. Guitar Hero 5 puts the player in control – not only because the entire set list is at their fingertips from the start, but also because of some amazing game developments.”
To make 5 stand out from previous iterations, as well as the competition, the developers have added a number of new features.
First up is Party Play mode, a new setting that allows players to jump in and out of songs or change the difficulty level at any time, without interrupting the flow of the track.
Gamers can also form bands out of any combination of instruments they choose. No longer limited by the standard ‘mic, two guitars and drums’ combo, they can now perform as an all-drum band, a singing quartet and more.
Another new mode, Rockfest, tweaks the gameplay scenario in order to truly test the skills of four players locally or up to eight players online.
Streakers, for example, rewards players who string together the most notes, while Do Or Die has a three-strike system for gamers that miss notes. Momentum increases the difficulty as they play better, while Perfectionist rewards the best performer with score multipliers.
“If you add this to existing Guitar Hero favourite features from previous editions, such as the ability to create and share your own music, you can see why players truly can rock any way they want with Guitar Hero 5.”
Public awareness of Guitar Hero has increased phenomenally since the original’s debut, thanks largely to Activision Blizzard’s marketing efforts. For the newest entry, the publishing giant is working hard to entice new consumers, with the game’s retail proposition forming an important pillar of the overall campaign.
“As with all Guitar Hero titles, we are investing in-store to show our continuing commitment to the Guitar Hero franchise,” says McClellan. “Retailers are absolutely crucial to every Guitar Hero launch.
“Whenever we ask consumers about what influences them to buy our titles, the in-store environment is a key motivator. One of the elements we are working hard on at the moment for Guitar Hero 5 is the pre-order campaign we run at retail. We have found in the past our customers enjoy exclusive offers, and pre-order allows us to give them exactly that.
“For this launch, we also have a number of amazing pre-order and launch offers. On the Guitar Bundle, we are offering pre-orders and launch day buyers a free copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour to show our commitment to the music variety with this title.
“For people who only buy the software, we also have a number of music variety gifts for pre-orders. An example of this is in GAME, where pre-orders for Guitar Hero 5 software will be rewarded with two exclusive Rolling Stones tracks to download.”
Activision is also preparing an extensive marketing campaign that stretches beyond traditional promotional initiatives.
McClellan went on to say the company aimed to build on the success of its past efforts, such as the viral Heidi Klum ad used to support the release of Guitar Hero: World Tour.
“We have a comprehensive through-the-line campaign for Guitar Hero 5,” he says. “We have enlisted the help of Hugh Heffner and his Playboy bunnies for the TV advertising, which should appeal to our fans – and also guarantees their attention, at least for duration of the advert.
“We saw from our work with Heidi Klum in the previous creative that enlisting the help of true talent for our advertising can spread the Guitar Hero name virally – our director’s cut of the Heidi TV ad still remains one of the most viewed on YouTube.
“In addition, consumers can expect some innovative marketing techniques – all designed to give our fans what they want from the franchise: music variety and excitement.”