Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal
The Guitar Hero Effect

Ruth Booth | 5 Jan 2010 13:11
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"Alan, you are a Guitar Hero / Now with Doritos you're no longer a zero ..."

The latest British TV commercial for Doritos chips is a stroke of genius. The story of a depressed shelf-stacker who almost gives up on his metal fantasies until he discovers the snack brand's new promotion, it's not only hilarious, it perfectly encapsulates the Guitar Hero effect (when a lesser known band sees its music sales spike after being featured in a Guitar Hero title).

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Guitar Hero is everywhere - from TV to the high street, potato chips to pubs. Some bars now offer Guitar Hero nights as a way for patrons to hang out and unwind. But the Guitar Hero effect is about more than just next-gen karaoke. As a gamer working in the heavier side of the music industry, the potential fascinates me. With the number of bands putting out Guitar Hero bundles every month, it's almost like the fourth format for music releases.

But to limit this phenomenon to Guitar Hero ignores the cumulative influence of a ton of great game soundtracks over the years, from Grand Theft Auto's in-game radio stations to the success of another Neversoft series, the Tony Hawk games. Festivals like Fuse 07 have similarly done much to draw attention to the relationship between videogaming and metal in particular. In many ways, Guitar Hero is the culmination of a relationship that goes back years, but one that still needs some work if it's to reach its full potential.

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Back in 2007, as Guitar Hero was starting to really find its groove, London hosted the Fuse 07 music and gaming festival. The brainchild of Senior Brand Manager Phil Brannelly at Ubisoft, the event was poised to capitalize on the soundtracks of recent games in the Tom Clancy series by reaching out beyond the normal gaming audience.

To this end, Brannelly brought on board Julie Weir, head of British metal label Visible Noise (home to Lostprophets and Bring Me The Horizon), and the two conceived of a format where a Battle Of The Clans would be "soundtracked" by a Battle Of The Bands. As a gamer herself, Weir was extremely passionate about the idea of bringing together fans from both sides, and over two years later she still raves about her involvement. "It was almost building a little community for Ubisoft and its gamers," she says. "I thought it was very clever and I still stand by the fact that I wish it'd gone further."

As head of Visible Noise, Weir has had dealings with the game industry for a number of years. "We manage a band called Evile who have gotten 200,000 downloads of a song of theirs called 'Thrasher' on Rock Band. 200,000, I mean that's crazy! I know a lot of people who got introduced to the band through that specific game."

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