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Guitar Hero Arcade Arrives: Will It Be The Next Big Hit?

Posted On: 11/19/2008

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ORLANDO, FL -- If Guitar Hero is killing off karaoke nights, then Raw Thrills could have the ultimate weapon to help operators finish the job, and profit from it. The American videogame development company told VT about its official arcade version of the mega-popular consumer game, which was unveiled at the IAAPA Attractions Expo here.

Over the past two years, the consumer Guitar Hero game has been migrating from living rooms and basements to bars and taverns where curious patrons, rock 'n' roll wannabes and videogame addicts play in public on big screens to fulfill their dreams of being rock stars. These so-called Guitar Hero nights are cropping up from New York to Los Angeles and have become the new karaoke nights, without the awkwardness of imperfect vocals.

Guitar Hero Arcade aims to be a a superior coin-operated amusement device capable of generating the maximum possible revenue for operators, according to Andrew Eloff, who is vice-president of the Skokie, IL, company and one of its founders. "It's truly amazing," he said. "We're doing everything to differentiate the arcade game from the home game."


Technically, Guitar Hero Arcade is a Konami game. Konami obtained rights to produce a coin-op version from Activision, owner of the Guitar Hero trademark. (Incidentally, the original GH home game in 2005 was inspired by Konami's GuitarFreaks arcade game, which had little exposure in the North America.) Raw Thrills is the designer and manufacturer of the new arcade game, and built it from the ground up, from software development to electrical and mechanical engineering.

Guitar Hero Arcade will be available in quantity in early 2009 and will ship with a playlist featuring the best GH music of the home games. Betson Enterprises, Raw Thrills' marketing arm, will be showcasing four units at the IAAPA show.

The new game is bundled in Raw Thrills' best cabinet design to date, officials said. Eight spotlights that shine on the player are built into the cabinet, which also is equipped with special guitar controls that were designed to withstand abuse. Video and audio outputs will allow locations to plug the game into their own plasma TVs and sound systems for performances and tournaments just like on Guitar Hero nights.


Raw Thrills also plans to mate the game with its CoinUp tournament system, which successfully administered the first Big Buck Hunter Pro World Championship event. Raw Thrills believes there's a good amount of armchair shredders who might like a shot at winning some cash and other prizes. "Guitar Hero is a natural for tournaments because it already has a highly competitive player base through console games, which have sold over 17 million units over the years," Eloff noted.

At the same time, Guitar Hero Arcade is designed to play like the familiar home game. It offers the same tracks and note lists of the consumer products, allowing players to practice before showing off at bars or arcades. "Kids who don't have the game at home will be able to learn in the arcade and bring their skills over to their friend's house," Eloff observed.

Arcade game flow has been streamlined from the home consoles, the Raw Thrills executive explained, but the object remains the same -- to be the local guitar hero. After inserting payment for one or two players, game mode is selected: single player, two-player cooperative or face-off. Players then select a character, choose a song and they're off. Using the game with the guitar peripheral simulates playing an actual guitar, except it uses five colored buttons for fret and a bar for strum.

"Once in the game, the player completes the track by playing the game accurately and with style," Eloff said. "Then the game is entered in the high-score table depending on how awesome the performance."

The legality of Guitar Hero nights, and similar public events using the competing Rock Band game from Harmonix, the original developer of the GH series, remains ambiguous. These pubic displays employ videogames with real song tracks that are licensed only for personal use. And like iPod nights at bars, which diminish jukebox use, the Guitar Hero kind has taken a cut out of coin game earnings in a significant number of locations. A game with the proper rights in place could give operators an advantage.

"We have gone to great effort to secure all possible performance rights for the arcade version of the game," Eloff told VT. "The big question is do the Guitar Hero nights actually have all proper licensing in place for public performance?"

According to Eloff, Guitar Hero Arcade illustrates that today's coin-op video product is smart, capable of making operators a lot of money and giving players more value.

"We know that this game will be an earnings powerhouse," he summed up. "Our testing to date has shown that. It's just a question of how high we can push the earnings. Guitar Hero Arcade will be a litmus test to see who is serious about this business."