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Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Launches in New York

Its release is as important to Activision as Halo is to Microsoft, so it was no surprise the company pulled out all the stops at today’s New York City launch of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

The rhythm-action game is expected to continue Activision’s domination of the category. In fact, according to the NPD Group’s list of July game sales, Guitar Hero Encore and GH II for Xbox and PS2 took three of the top ten spots. The end result: Activision’s Q1 sales were up 163% to a record $459.5 million, primarily because of the GH franchise.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock builds on the popularity of earlier versions and adds new features likely to put it high on this holiday season’s gift lists. The rhythm-based music game still allows users to play lead, rhythm or bass guitar in a rock band -- essentially fulfilling the fantasy of millions of middle-aged rocker wannabes -- but unlike GH II, which featured covers of the original songs, the new version includes master tracks from groups like Living Colour, Metallica, Foghat, the Beastie Boys, even the Rolling Stones.

The guitar/controller is now wireless, which means users’ inner rocker can go outright crazy. A new multi-player function will allow users to have cutting contests with other guitar heroes (or zeroes, depending on your perspective) around the world. GH III also features an original track contributed by Slash, lead guitarist of Guns ‘n’ Roses, who plays a boss battle character players can shred against.

Even Interscope Records hopes to piggyback on the game’s popularity. The company plans to release a CD that features music from the game on October 30th, two days after GH III is slated to hit the shelves. The CD will include a code that lets users unlock songs from Marilyn Manson and AFI.

Last holiday season, Guitar Hero II was a tough find. And if Activision has its way, shoppers better get their copies of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, well in advance.

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