Guitar Hero is a series of music video games first published in 2005 by RedOctane and distributed by Activision in which players use a guitar-shaped peripheral to simulate the playing of lead, bass guitar and rhythm guitar across numerous rock music songs. Players match notes that scroll on-screen to colored fret buttons on the controller, strumming the controller in time to the music in order to score points, and keep the virtual audience excited. The games attempt to mimic many features of playing a real guitar, including the use of fast-fingering hammer-ons and pull-offs and the use of the whammy bar to alter the pitch of notes. Most games support single player modes, typically a Career mode to play through all the songs in the game, and both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes.
The game currently has five major releases and three expansions on gaming consoles, and with spinoffs for Windows and Macintosh systems, mobile phones, the Nintendo DS, and an arcade game, with several more titles announced for future release. The Guitar Hero franchise has become a cultural phenomenon and learning and development tool for medical purposes, and has impacted both the video game and the modern music industry. The series has sold more than 25 million units worldwide, earning US$2 billion at retail, claimed by Activision to be the 3rd largest game franchise after the Mario and Madden NFL franchises; the third main title of the series, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is also claimed by Activision to be the first single video game title to exceed $1 billion in sales.
Guitar Hero has made several appearances in popular culture. Guitar Hero II is the centerpiece of an episode of South Park based on Guitar Hero, in which Stan and Kyle overindulge in Guitar Hero II and become treated as though they were real-life rock stars. The episode was first broadcast on November 7, 2007, ten days after the American release of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The animated Metalocalypse show, who also provided cutscene animations within the Guitar Hero game, has made reference to Guitar Hero;in one example, the episode "Dethkids," a sick child composes a song for Dethklok rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth using a Guitar Hero controller. Ellen DeGeneres has played Guitar Hero several times in 2008 during the monologue of her syndicated talk show. The name "Guitar Hero" is often juxtapositioned with other instruments or other tools for humorous effects. There are T-shirts available from at least one vendor, parodying the Guitar Hero logo with a number of different instruments, from violin to bagpipes.Marketing for The Simpsons Game included mock posters for "Sitar Hero", depicting The Simpsons character Apu with a controller with 21 buttons, a parody Harmonix praised. GameSpot released an April Fools' article in 2006 announcing "Cowbell Hero" as a successor to the first game, referencing the "More cowbell" skit from Saturday Night Live. One Penny Arcade comic strip envisioned a game entitled "Photoshop Hero", which has become a design for one of their t-shirts.A 2008 FoxTrot Sunday comic showed the characters Jason and Marcus playing a video game called "Chamber Music Hero." The satirical newspaper The Onion published an article entitled "Activision Reports Sluggish Sales For Sousaphone Hero."A Guitar Hero reality show could be developed in the future, along with a possible concert tour.
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