The Perils Of One-Band Music Games

The Perils Of One-Band Music Games

Music games built around a single artist can be a tricky thing to plan for, because while you’ll attract fans of that single artist, many others just won’t give a toss. Especially, it seems, when that artist is Van Halen.

According to retail analysts The NPD Group, Activision’s Guitar Hero: Van Halen has been an absolute disaster, with only 94,000 copies sold since the game’s launch in December. To put that in perspective, here are the sales figures for other Guitar Hero or Rock Band games built around a single band.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith — 2,741,000

The Beatles: Rock Band — 1,296,000

Guitar Hero: Metallica — 1,001,000

Guitar Hero: Van Halen — 94,000

Ouch. And while The Beatles: Rock Band sold 12x as many copies, when you consider how much it must have cost MTV for the rights – not to mention their advertising spend – it too doesn’t look like the smartest of business decisions.

Are Single-band Music Games a Success? [IGN]


  • I can’t see Rock Band Green Day being much better. The core Rock Band game for me though still gets a decent showing every few Saturday nights.

    • GH: Van Halen was a bad idea for a few reasons: Van Halen isnt exactly that popular nowadays, their fanbase is older and less likely to play videogames, a lot of VH fans are guitarists, and guitarists dont think much of Guitar Hero games…

  • Sure, but how many copies did they give away free with GH5.

    Also, how many of those then got sold on eBay?

  • It could be that I’m just a hopeless metal fanatic, but GH Metallica has been my favourite out of the series. It’s so lovingly crafted that I just couldnt help liking it better than the rest.

    • And I A Bon Jovi, I’d even be happy with a Hagar upgrade to Van Halen but I guess us “oldies” are just dreaming after these sales stats.

      The Metallica release was great, but the Aerosmith one was VERY disappointing considering what songs they didn’t include (ie. most of their best ones).
      I think the only reason Aerosmith sold well at all was because there was still a general Guitar Hero up-swell in popularity at that time.

  • Wow, I honestly thought Aerosmith would be the big flop, but it sold twice that of the Beatles? I would have lost serious money on that bet.

    I think with older bands like Van-Halen you’d be better off hedging your bets and having two bands share the cover. I know there are other tracks as well, but a lot of people don’t realise that.

    • Aerosmith came directly after GH3 at a time when Rock Band was still not out in many territories (including Australia). People (a) hadn’t seen the depths the GH franchise was going to stoop to, (b) hadn’t been burned on single-band games yet, and (c) were desperate for more Guitar Hero at a time when GH Aerosmith had effectively zero in-genre competition.

      The sales aren’t about the quality (or general interest in) that title so much as the strength of the Guitar Hero brand at that point in time.

  • I wouldn’t buy any of these one band games because I just don’t like these bands enough to actually buy a game based on them. I’m actually surprised GH Aerosmith actually sold as many as they did. I guess the problem with these games is that they have already limited themselves to that bands hardcore fan base. I don’t care how great the gameplay is, if I don’t love the band, I won’t buy the game.

    And making us play as the old and tame Van Halen for most of the game? That’s just uncalled for.

  • Van Halen was just released at the wrong time, right at the end of the whole rythm game hype.

    That being said… how the hell did aerosmith do so well? I tried it, and it was TERRIBLE!.. and it doing better then Beatles is amazing. I call foul on those stats, that can’t be right.

  • I love Van Halen but I didn’t buy the game because I couldn’t afford it.

    From what I’ve read on the net it failed because
    1. They didn’t include Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony or Gary Cherone as playable characters.
    2. It only had songs from the David Lee Roth era. (I like those songs but they really should have included some of the Hagar songs).
    3. They let Wolfgang Van Halen pick all the non-Van Halen songs. WTF

  • I’d like to see some Rock Band Stats. Since they have so much DLC it should be a much better indicator of the likes of genre.

    Old vs New
    Metal vs Country
    Hard vs Easy

    If fact how well do the RB Single Artist packs sell? They tend to have more popular tacks when featuring a single artist pack, and would be a better indicator of what GH is doing wrong.

  • Beatles Rock Band is the greatest-crafted music game there is.
    More people should buy it as we don’t want to send the developers the message that one-band music games fail commercially.

    • Bad logic. “Rock Band:Beatles was not a commercial success. Harmonix lost money on it, or at least didn’t make as much as they hoped. Hey everyone, go artificially inflate its sales numbers so they make another one and do even more harm to their financial position.” Sometimes the nicest thing you can do for a developer is just admit that wonderfully crafted games can still be bad business.

    • I keep hearing good things about it and seeing it at increasing discounts and then remembering that I only REALLY like maybe a dozen Beatles songs and they aren’t all even in the game.

      I suspect single-band releases just aren’t economic, but if they are it will only be with a band that is really popular with ages 30 and under. Plenty of people under 30 like the Beatles, but to buy something like this you need the love.

  • I love Guitar Hero Van Halen along with the AeroSmith game. Most fun I’ve with mates in a music game ever.

  • Hopefully THIS will convince Activision that they can’t just keep milking the udders of the Guitar Hero franchise one band at a time from now until the end of eternity. The fans WILL get pissed off at being repeatedly expected to pay full retail price for what should just be DLC- if nothing else it’s annoying having to constantly switch disks to play different songs. Maybe Bobby Kotick will finally wise up? Not bloody likely.

    What’s more, if they ARE going to continue releasing band-themed expansions, why the hell haven’t they done IRON MAIDEN yet?!

  • Guitar Hero: Van Halen must rank up there with the PSP Go for most obvious dumb idea by a major gaming company in the past 12 months. Even executed perfectly, you’d think there would be a limited fanbase for a Van Halen game just because Van Halen hasn’t released new material in forever and the demographics between Van Halen fan and videogame buyer don’t line up so well.

    But then they do things like cut off the entire Hagar era, base the game around the “current” lineup instead of the classic lineup, and make the songs not import into the main Guitar Hero games (which makes it harder to include them in the social playing that drove the popularity of music games in the first place)… sure, I’m sure all of that was demanded by Eddie Van Halen, but did it not occur to them that even if the game was commercial to make to start with, excepting those demands would turn it into a disaster?

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