This Day in Gaming History: Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero

November 8, 2005

The popular music-based series turns 11 today. For many, Guitar Hero was the first game to capture the feeling of being a rock star.

Guitar Hero
The concept of strumming wildly on a large, plastic, guitar-shaped controller may be commonplace today, but it wasn’t that long ago when nobody thought it was a good idea. Well, Kai and Charles Huang of RedOctane thought it was pretty good.


The Konami game Guitar Freaks was a very popular Japanese game on the Huang’s rental service WebGameZone. Guitar Freaks was rhythm game that used guitar controllers to play scrolling on-screen notes. Previous efforts to localize the game for American consoles had fallen flat due to legal issues involving the controllers.

Guitar Freaks controller pre-Guitar Hero
We could have been rocking out with this mass of polygons.

Seeing potential, the duo raised $1.75 million to bring this concept to the United States in the form of new guitar controller designs. The game idea was shopped around to many different gaming companies, with most of them rejecting the offer. It wasn’t until they met up with music game developer Harmonix before they’d get the green light on their game Guitar Hero.


The guitar peripheral’s design was a scale replication of a Gibson SG, with the addition of five multicolored buttons on the neck. Players must press these five buttons to match the scrolling in-game notes and earn points towards the game’s “Rock Meter”. A high Rock Meter is an indication of a great performance, while a low score expresses a bad performance and usually ends the song prematurely. Consistently high Rock Meter results in the gaining of the score multiplier “Star Power”.

Guitar Hero star power ready!
Star Power was made to resemble electricity as a way to convey the crowd’s excitement.


Music production studio WaveGroup Sound were hired to reproduce high-accuracy cover versions of the game’s licensed songs. In the case of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Iron Man”, the band had singer Marcus Henderson record his voice in front of the exact model fan used to produce the original song’s vocal effects. Song selection was always changing, so much so that the final song list wasn’t completed until a week before the game’s shipping date.

Guitar Hero Ozzy
Ozzy himself would later become a playable character in Guitar Hero: World Tour.

What do you think of Guitar Hero? Is it a clear ripoff of Guitar Freaks? Which guitar controller did you play with?

We await your answers to these burning questions in the comments below!

Eric Hall2465 Posts

Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.


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