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With the recent axing of the Guitar Hero series by Activision Blizzard, it got me to thinking on publishers or parent companies insist on releasing games on a per annum basis. One of the biggest problems facing Guitar Hero (and yes, it’s easy to say this with the benefit of hindsight) was over-saturation. The first Guitar Hero game, then developed by Harmonix, was released in 2005. There have been 9 Guitar Hero titles since then, not counting handheld, mobile and PC versions or Band Hero & DJ Hero. Not to forget that each of the Guitar Hero releases also came with new peripherals.

So, it might seem to one that this was a clear and true act of ‘milking the cow’ and while this is indeed business, you have to draw the line somewhere, right? Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed playing some of the Guitar Hero titles (and quite frankly, I’m abysmal at the game) but the last one I bought was World Tour. Even by then it was painfully obvious that there was very little innovation going into the product and it was essentially the same game with new songs.

Just look at the difference between Guitar Hero and Rock Band (which is developed by original Guitar Hero developers Harmonix, I might add) now. One franchise has suffered a major downturn in sales and is set to be axed and the other, continues to grow from strength to strength.

I think at this point we can safely leave Guitar Hero behind and look at some other suspects in the gaming industry.

One of the first lot of games that fits into the yearly (or more) release schedule is publisher THQ’s Smackdown vs Raw series. The very first game of this series was WWF Smackdown! released way back in 2000. There’s days, we’re up to Smackdown vs Raw 11. I’ve personally bought everyone from 2007 to present (though I’ve played many of the older ones)  and the first thing I notice is whether or not the controls have been shuffled around from the previous version and the roster of wrestlers. There are new features (Some better than others) but not a whole lot to really set the games apart.

EA Sports
EA Sports, it’s in the game! These guys are probably the worst offenders in the games industry. A rough list as follows: FIFA (Soccer for Americans) Series, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, NBA Live series, NHL series and several others. What sets these games apart from their previous versions? A small list of new features or updated features (Some of which have a habit of making something worse!!) as well as an updated player/club roster. I suspect that the latter can be a large determining factor in this instance.

They are of course not the only ones doing it, but the first that comes to mind (largely because I happen to play several of the titles). This is only my opinion since I can’t be a fly on the wall in dev/exec meetings, but I’m inclined to believe that for some at least, innovation and delivering quality products to the consumers (You know, us Gamers) have taken a backseat to money making. I acknowledge that the Gaming Industry is a business and businesses need to make money, but if we’ve learned anything from the fall of Guitar Hero, that there is a line that can be crossed and doing so is going to hurt your business in the long run.

Got an opinion on the subject? Leave a comment on the blog or head over to the forums and post in this thread.