It's a conversation anybody who grew up in the '90s has had at least a dozen times: "Remember when MTV actually played music videos?" Yes, yes -- we all do. Those times are over. Well, those times were over: Activision is about to change everything. It's launching Guitar Hero TV: a "channel" where you can not only watch music videos, but play along with them too.
Maybe I should clarify: Guitar Hero TV isn't a channel you buy from your cable provider, it's the multiplayer mode of Activison's upcoming Guitar Hero Live -- the space where you compete against other players for the best score. You also need an Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo console (plus $US99 for the base game) to access the music video service, but don't hold that against it -- if you want a no-subscription music video service in your living room, this might be the ticket.
On the surface, Guitar Hero Live is just a game. It's a portal that takes players away from the main game's singleplayer campaign and drops them into a competitive multiplayer environment with new songs and new features -- -but the game mode is presented as a functional, 24-hour TV network that plays music videos. There are selectable channels that offer up different genres and "shows" featuring top hits or best metal or any other assortment of themed playlists.
Pick a "channel" on the program guide, and the normal Guitar Hero fretboard will appear, allowing you to play along with the song. That's great, but you know what's better? If you choose not to play that fretboard highway will disappear and present you with the normal, full-screen music video. BAM. Just like that, you have your 1990s MTV back. OK, maybe that's not the primary intention of the service, but it's a hell of a perk: some of us (me) aren't good enough at Guitar Hero to play online competitively -- but I could sure get behind having unlimited, free music videos on my TV during a house party.
Oh, did I not mention that it was free? Because it totally is. Guitar Hero TV's various live channels won't cost you a dime beyond the main game's purchase price. You can spend some cash to buy additional fretboard highway designs, "play" credits that let you play any music video on demand or access to Guitar Hero Premium, limited time playlists that aren't on the main network yet -- but paying is optional. All of Guitar Hero TV's content can be unlocked by playing the game online and completing challenges.
Activision tells me that it will constantly update Guitar Hero TV with new songs, giving players a steady stream of new, free content year around. It's a world of difference from the old Guitar Hero model, which sold individual tracks as downloadable content (though you'll still be able to purchase unlimited on-demand access to your favourite tracks for a small fee). It feels better too -- no longer will I have to wonder if my purchased tracks will carry over to the next version of Guitar Hero. Mostly because I don't have to purchase tracks anymore. It's nice.
So there you have it. Guitar Hero TV: it's like Pandora, but for music videos and plastic guitars. Want in? The game launches on October 20.