Guitar Hero Returns to Boston

2/15/08Follow @wroush

The billion-dollar franchise that is Guitar Hero is coming home to Boston, in the form of a special edition of the blockbuster video game enshrining the music of the original Bad Boys from Boston, Aerosmith.

Activision, which distributes the Guitar Hero games, announced today that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, the sixth game in the phenomenally popular strum-along series, will be released in June. Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Toys R Us, and RedOctane are already accepting pre-orders.

The game will allow players using the special guitar-shaped Guitar Hero controller to test their dexterity on parts originally played by Aerosmith guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton. Unlike previous Guitar Hero games, which included a broad collection of rock songs, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith will be dominated by Aerosmith tracks such as “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” along with a few “songs from celebrated artists that the band has either performed with or been inspired by in some way,” according to Activision’s announcement. The on-screen venues in which players’ avatars perform will be drawn from Aerosmith’s career and will “capture the essence of the band’s rise to fame,” Activision says.

Like Aerosmith, the Guitar Hero series is home-grown, originating at Cambridge’s Harmonix Music. Working with Sunnyvale, CA-based RedOctane, the company published the original Guitar Hero in 2005, followed by Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, and Rock Band, a multiplayer version of the game. But after MTV bought Harmonix and Activision bought RedOctane in 2006, Activision-owned studio Neversoft of Woodland Hills, CA, took over development of the Guitar Hero games. Neversoft was responsible for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and is the creator Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

Activision said in late January that Guitar Hero sales in North America alone had surpassed 14 million units or $1 billion in gross revenues. That’s not even counting the millions of songs players have downloaded for the game at $2.50 per song. (Between February 16 and February 18, Guitar Hero III players will be able to download and play Aerosmith’s “Dream On” for free in celebration of the upcoming release, Activision said.)

Aerosmith’s Joe Perry said the band is excited to be part of the Guitar Hero phenomenon, which has been credited by some with reviving interest among young people in rock music and specifically in learning to play guitar. “It’s cool for us to be pioneers helping to rebuild the music industry through a format like video games,” Perry said in Activision’s press release. “It’s great for rock since the record companies are struggling to make sense of how things are changing. Fans want to get and experience music in new formats—and there are going to be some of them who will play the game, then pick up the guitar for real and start bands.”

Aerosmith lead vocalist Steven Tyler was slightly less articulate about the new game. “Any band that can go from ‘Don’t Want to Miss A Thing’ (Aerosmith’s #1 smash hit) to the ass-kicking ‘Sweet Emotion’ to the cheekiness of ‘Love in an Elevator,’ to the classic ballad ‘Dream On’ shows why Activision chose us to headline this game based on the diversity of the Aerosmith catalog. Not only is songwriting a bitch, but then it goes and has puppies.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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