Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, you can't deny that the band game business is a very lucrative business.  In the past couple years, we've faced a bit of an oversaturation of them, and while you may point fingers at Activision straight away, let's not forget that Harmonix puts out DLC every Tuesday and Thursday, and announces even more every Friday.  I've comprised this timeline of the music game genre to attempt and explain why the music games are starting to go down the drain.

Remember this big lug?  He remembers you and your failure two seconds in...

Since the days of Guitar Hero I, people have been either hailing or criticizing the concept of playing plastic guitar to real songs.  Those against it often say that they should just play a real guitar.  Those in favor tend to say that it's a great way to get people interested in different kinds of music.  It was still being released on a yearly basis, with GH2 following closely.  Even after HMX got bought by MTV, there was a GH game a year later.  In a sense, HMX actually set the example for the yearly games people often laud the series for.

Kickass!  ...He missed, but you get the point.

From that point on, we had two completely different franchises: Rock Band (by Harmonix, who had been making music games longer) and Guitar Hero (by Neversoft, known for the Tony Hawk franchise).  After the first Rock Band was released, it was evident that the instrument games were rising from the water to crawl upon the surface.  Instead of one instrument, there was four.  Instead of single-player, the focus was on multiplayer.  Rather than create a traditional gig-to-gig mode, there was a tour mode for the bands to play in.  Rock Band remains one of the highest rated music games to date, by critics and consumers alike.

Screeeeeeaaaaaamiiiiiiiinnnnnngg  for vengeance!!!

However, that wasn't even the major selling point for Rock Band.  The biggest innovation it made was a downloadable music store with a large amount of songs.  While it started out slow with nothing but covers and a few Metallica songs, today it spans well over 800+ songs.  Each song costs about $2 as a standalone, and oftentimes were also part of a pack which you could buy for a slightly discounted price.  Eventually, entire albums such as Megadeth's Peace Sells...  But Who's Buying? and Pearl Jam's Ten were released for purchase.

So many notes, so many instruments...

Later, Guitar Hero went on its own route with its instruments.  They eventually added their own unique drums, guitar/bass, and vocals to the series.  They also revamped the note charts to make them more challenging, with sustain hammer-ons and "slider" notes for guitar, open bass notes, and two cymbals on the drums.  Guitar Hero also had a music store, although it wasn't nearly as lucrative or packed as RB's was.  The result?  Critics gave it high reviews, but upon the consumers, it wasn't well liked.  The day of single-instrument games was over, and the move was necessary, although it was evident that the inexperienced Neversoft needed to do some polishing.


Around the same time, Rock Band 2 was released.  While there were no major innovations or changes to the note charts and/or gameplay, it introduced chord hammer-ons and provided numerous other features like breakneck speed (better known as hyperspeed, it was an old cheat for Guitar Hero), a much more fluid menu, and, of course, a wide variety of songs to choose from. 

Ask anybody about this game, and you'll be answered with a look of outright disgust.

Undoubtedly, those couple of years were the pinnacle of music gaming.  There was, of course, Rock Revolution, but it tanked for obvious reasons.  The bandwagon wasn't for everyone, it seemed.

This man speaks the truth.

Then Activision/Neversoft came up with an idea.  Instead of just yearly sequels, why don't we just make a bunch of spin-offs?  Thus began the band games.  In about the span of a single year, Guitar Hero Aerosmith, Metallica, three handheld GHs, Smash Hits, Van Halen, Band Hero, and Guitar Hero 5 were all released.  Aerosmith was a good idea in concept, but it lacked the WT engine.  Metallica was praised for cleaner charts and great songs, and it introduced Expert+ drums, allowing a second foot pedal to be attached. 

Don't let its harmless looks fool you; this is the #1 cause of hand cramps in America.

We can just forget the Guitar Hero games released for the DS.  Smash Hits wasn't a band-centric game, but a rehash of older songs from the first few GHs, and was pretty much dismissed altogether.  Van Halen did even worse, with shoddy graphics, strange guest acts, and a lack of a specific band member.  You know who he is. Band Hero, a game meant for little kids, really did nothing special.  It's more or less a dumbed down version of GH5.  Speaking of which...

Moar drumz!!!

GH5 was the first one in a long time to make a large innovation, with cleaner movement, a karaoke-style jump in mode, a better menu, transferring of certain songs from the other games, and song challenges like whammying x amount of notes or hitting as many foot pedals as possible.  Although it didn't get the best reviews in the world, it was miles better than most of Neversoft's previous efforts.  Whew, that's a lot of Guitar Hero!

Here comes the sun, do do do do...

On the HMX side of things, we've only got two releases: Beatles and Lego.  The Beatles: Rock Band was a band-centric game, but the difference between this iteration and the numerous others is that this is 100% Beatles.  There's no guest acts or unlockable characters, it's just John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and that obscure drummer guy.*  Also, instead of playing at venues the entire time, there were backgrounds called "dreamscapes", which are basically imaginative backgrounds that completely fit the psychadelic 60's motif.  Needless to say, the game garnered very high reviews, although the hardcore players dying for a challenge were disappointed.

How exactly is a Lego person supposed to play guitar?  They don't even have fingers!!!

Just a couple months after the success of Beatles, Lego Rock Band was released in time for the holiday season, in conjunction with Traveller's Tales.  The super-easy difficulty was introduced, the store was configured to work with family friendly DLC, and the game was constantly on no-fail in order to cater to younger audiences, but otherwise, there was nothing new.  LRB was given good praise regardless, but it didn't quite live up to its older brothers' standards.

And then Harmonix shocked the world with the following announcement:

Don't wanna be an American idiot!!!

Yes, you are looking at a picture of Rock Band: Green Day.  The newest band-centric game from Harmonix.  Not Neversoft, but Harmonix.  One has to question the motive behind this, and so far, with the little information we've been given about it, it seems as if it's going to be just like the other games.  It isn't even close to release yet, and the community has already lashed out at it.  Is there something Harmonix isn't telling us about it?  Or are we really looking at the rest of what music games will consist of?


Phew, this took a lot longer to make than expected!  If I passed over anything, please let me know in the comments box.  Hopefully you have found this an interesting bit of information.