Monday, July 2, 2012

Guitar Hero (McFarlane Toys)

Oversaturation of the market is the worst thing that ANY product can ever do to itself. It's one thing to keep up with supply and demand, and a whole different thing to choke the life out of something that people once had a great passion for.

The tale of Guitar Hero is somewhat of a Greek tragedy really. The series began in 2005 when Red Octane and Harmonix joined forces with Activision to reshape the world of video games as we know it today. Rather than play a game with your standard controller, Guitar Hero implemented plastic guitars with five buttons and a strum bar. It was an immediate success with gamers, and took the world by storm.

Much like Yoko Ono, Bobby Kotick got shuffled into the mix as CEO for Activision, and completely broke up the band. In 2006, Activision purchased Red Octane leaving Harmonix out in the cold. Fortunately for Harmonix, MTV Networks stepped in and purchased the company.

With the split official, Harmonix began its own project, Rock Band, and before the year was over, Guitar Hero's creators were both at war for dominance of the rhythm game genre - A war that while Harmonix would win, still found no overall winner as both franchises were eventually put on hold - In Activision's case, indefinitely.

But, what exactly killed both of these (at the time) great game series? Simple - Oversaturation. Both franchises were pumping out game after game, sometimes several in less than a year, all while continually "supporting" each game with more and more downloadable content. It simply became too much, and as both companies were reaching for the top, the fans pulled the ladder out from under them.

Having had enough, fans simply stopped supporting either product. Before you knew it, entire bundles which would once set you back two to three hundred dollars were being blown out on clearance for ten to twenty dollars. Stores couldn't sell, them, because people didn't want them. The majority of both "communities" had reached their limit, and as a result left both companies high and dry.

As in depth as the history is for Guitar Hero, we're actually not here to talk about the games at all. We're here to look at the brief series of figures produced by McFarlane toys.

When Guitar Hero: Legends of Rock was released in 2007, a deal was cut with McFarlane Toys to produce a batch of figures on the series. It was hopped that if these figures were sold at places such as EB Games and GameStop that gamers would buy the toys as well. It was a tactic that unfortunately failed miserably.

While the figures were fantastic sculpts that accurately resembled their game counterparts, McFarlane Toys made the same mistake that Activision was currently hard at work on making - Oversaturation.

For a series that only managed to release four different characters, there were a whopping ten different figures when all the variants were considered. This has, and appears to always will be a common flaw in marketing with McFarlane Toys. To put it bluntly, the company loves to milk people's wallet's dry with simple repainted variants that are usually packaged and sold as exclusives - At ridiculously high prices.

The four figures produced were;

Johnny Napalm
Axel Steel
God of Rock
Lars Umlaut

The original Johnny Napalm sported a brown Mohawk. The original God of Rock wore a white toga, and the original Lars Umlaut had black hair. This is important to make note of because...

...Then there were all the variants;

God of Rock (black robe)
God of Rock (gold robe)
Johnny Napalm (green Mohawk)
Johnny Napalm (black Mohawk)
Johnny Napalm (skeleton costume)
Lars Umlaut (blond hair)

It was too much - Both in production of variants, and price. The figures were eventually marked down considerably as most stores unsuccessfully tried to offload them. To this day you can still find dusty packages lurking in clearance isles or on back shelves at your local game store.

Is it safe to say that the world of gaming doesn't mix with the world of toy collecting? Not necessarily. McFarlane Toys has proven that gamers and toy collector's can be brought together with the right product - such as Halo figures. Unfortunately for Guitar Hero there just wasn't enough desire to bring the toys home.

We speculate that this is because in a game such as this, the animated characters that the studio created don't mean anything to the player. When they pick up that plastic guitar, or sit down at the compatible drum set, they (and their friends) are the star(s) of the game.

There's no story that brings the characters alive. No connection or bond between the human player and the animated character. The characters often times drift into the background as you focus on the colorful icons on the screen to the point where the characters in and of themselves are rather unnecessary at all.

With this in mind, why would someone want a figure of Lars Umlaut, Johnny Napalm, God of Rock or Axel Steel? We stand by what we said above, they're impressive sculpts that match the characters exactly, but unfortunately they're characters that don't appeal to all that many people because they don't mean anything to people, and probably never will.

Join us next time when we take a look at Food Fighters!

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