The DJ rhythm game Fuser made a pretty good impression on us when it released in late 2020: It melted James’ EDM-hating heart (opens in new tab)and convinced Tyler that Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” belongs, well, in pretty much every other song you can name (opens in new tab). “Fuser feels like a natural evolution for Harmonix and, scoring system aside, lets players take control of the music more than ever before,” we wrote in our 77% review (opens in new tab). Very solid appraisals all around!
Unfortunately, just two years after it launched, Fuser is going away for good. “On December 19, we will be disabling Fuser’s live services and all sales of the game, as well as its DLC,” Harmonix announced today. “Players who already own Fuser will still be able to play the Campaign and Quick Play with any DLC they have already acquired. Thank you again for your support and for all the amazing mixes over the years.”
An update on FUSER live services https://t.co/7xLZtIHjcLDecember 2, 2022
Harmonix didn’t provide a reason for the closure, but the numbers on Steam tell the tale. Fuser managed a peak concurrent player count of just 837 in November 2020, according to Steam Charts (opens in new tab), and it’s been mired in double-digit concurrent player counts since May 2021; its peak concurrent player count over the past 30 days is just 34. That’s not the total player base—Fuser is also available on the Epic Games Store and consoles, and concurrents mean less for a singleplayer game than a multiplayer one—but it doesn’ t paint a very promising picture for the overall player base.
It’s also a far cry from the impact of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games developed by Harmonix and released in the early 2000s. Vice paid tribute to Harmonix’ most influential series in a 2021 Oral History of Guitar Hero (opens in new tab), saying that a song featured in the game could see its individual downloads boosted by up to 843%; publisher Activision said in 2008 that Aerosmith earned more royalties (opens in new tab) through the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith game than it did from any of its albums.
“Since its debut in 2005, the Guitar Hero series has sold more than 25 million units, making more than $2 billion, and cementing itself as one of the best-selling video game series of all time,” Vice wrote. “It was also a culturally watershed moment, with some of the largest bands in the world seeking out their own deals with Activision, hoping to cash in on the Guitar Hero boom.”
The bloom eventually came off the rose: An attempt to resurrect the Guitar Hero series in 2015 was met with indifference, and a crowdfunding campaign (opens in new tab) to bring Rock Band 4 to PC barely managed to achieve half its goal. Fuser looked like an intriguing change in direction (opens in new tab) when it was announced in early 2020, but also failed to reignite interest in the rhythm game genre; Harmonix itself was actually acquired by Epic Games (opens in new tab) in November 2021, which the studio said would enable it to “bring our unique brand of musical gaming experiences to the Metaverse,” and more specifically Fortnite.