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Guitar Hero Live now available on Apple TV, but you have to buy the guitar controller accessory to play the game


As demoed by Apple on stage, the latest instalment of Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero Live, is now available on Apple TV. It’s just like classic Guitar Hero, a three-lane rhythm based game, but modernised with better visuals, ‘real’ band members, enhanced crowd reactions, and more.

On the iPhone and iPad version, you can play two trial songs for free or pay $50 via In-App Purchase to unlock the full game with 38 additional songs. However, on Apple TV, the game is completely non-functional without the controller accessory. You have to buy the controller for the game to work at all. Incidentally, you can buy the full game and controller on Amazon as a $99 bundle, for both iOS and tvOS.

Requiring a game controller peripheral is a controversial move, as it goes against Apple’s normal App Store policy for Apple TV games. In fact, it appears to defy the rules about game controllers laid out by Apple.

In the developer guidelines, Apple says explicitly that developers cannot make games that require an MFI controller. All games must be able to be played with the Siri Remote alone. This caused some discontent in the community as it artificially limits what kind of games can be made based on the capabilities of the ‘basic’ Siri Remote. Guitar Hero behaviour seems to defy these rules entirely.

We have reached out to Apple for comment but one possible explanation is that the Guitar Hero game accessory is not technically an ‘MFI game controller’. It is a completely custom peripheral that only works with the Guitar Hero game. This may be a bit of a loophole that allows Activision to require the peripheral as it doesn’t technically fall under the ‘no MFI controller exclusive games’ requirement … because it isn’t an MFI controller.

Perhaps adding salt to the wounds, on iOS, the game can be played in full without a controller accessory. Paying the $50 IAP unlocks the full game. It doesn’t seem very fair to extort additional money out of Apple TV users for the same game.

Still, if you are interested in Guitar Hero games, Guitar Hero Live seems like a fantastic addition to the series. You get a lot of tracks as well as access to the GHTV channels, which show 200 live music videos that you can play along with.  It’s just a shame you have to fork out $100 and buy the fake guitar peripheral the if you want to enjoy the game on Apple TV.


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  1. pavoldonko - 7 years ago

    Is it possible to play on iOS with two controllers (as it is on other consoles)? I know that now it is not possible to buy 2-pack bundle, but I want to play with my friends (with their controllers).

  2. standardpull - 7 years ago

    I’d pay for this if I could plug in my own instrument. It’s 2015. A system that can process my guitar’s analog out to turn it into a viable game controller should be a lot more lifelike than a low-end Bluetooth gaming controller shaped to look like a guitar.

    Yes, that would take real engineering and science to pull that off. But I have no doubt that we could be producing a lot more true guitar heroes.

    • You should look into Rocksmith. It does exactly that.

      • Soluble Apps - 7 years ago

        Rocksmith was a great way to do this- It would need hardware of some sort, though, such as a bluetooth or USB-C box with a guitar input (latency can be a problem with bluetooth- I hated playing Guitar Hero with bluetooth headphones)

  3. Tim Baker (@IAmTimBaker) - 7 years ago

    Apple has a lot of momentum with the new Apple TV and people are really excited by the gaming capabilities thus far. They’d be foolish to limit it by forcing apps to use only Siri remote. I’m a gamer, but certainly not one that will be spending hours a day on Xbox One or Playstation 4, but I want something a little more advanced than I can get with swipe and tap controls. This is a positive move that gives me hope that the Apple TV can be a nice little gaming device.

    • Joe - 7 years ago

      My thoughts exactly. This would be great for future gaming endeavors. I want to have FFVII and all the GTA games that are on iOS on my AppleTV, but there’s no way they’d work with the ATV remote. If they required a controller than that would be great.

  4. pharrisart - 7 years ago

    so can you play it with a bluetooth guitar you already own from the PS3 version of the game?

    • pavoldonko - 7 years ago

      Simply no. iOS guitar is somehow special probably to sell more devices. There is also no compatibility with older guitars obviously.

  5. NatsJim - 7 years ago

    I don’t care at all about guitar hero, but am really hopeful that this indicates Apple is coming off the shortsighted policy of forcing games to be compatible with the stupid siri remote. Just make it clear when purchasing that the app requires an mfi controller and there’s no problem. I will gladly buy an mfi controller for my atv4 if I know that Apple has changed the policy and more advanced games are coming, but if not I’ll just continue to keep all of my gaming on ps4/xb1 – I will never game using the siri remote, period.

  6. Gary L. Glasscock - 7 years ago

    Guitar Hero is nice, but I’d rather have Rocksmith instead. Toy guitar vs. REAL GUITAR. Then again, I’d rather learn how to play guitar than play and playing guitar. Guitar Here – The Ultimate Air Guitar Experience. Bleh! Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and it shrunk when I washed it. C’mon Apple, Get Rocksmith on Apple TV and I’ll upgrade. BTW, since you can’t connect the Real Tone USB cable to Apple TV, you’ll have to come up with a Bluetooth solution and then we’ll have wireless guitars (just like the pros! XD)

  7. Soluble Apps - 7 years ago

    It is the right call to make this game need a guitar controller.

  8. Chris Tucker - 7 years ago

    So, if I purchase the guitar on Amazon, will I not need the $50 in-purchase to enable full gameplay? Does the Amazon bundle come with some unlock code?


Avatar for Benjamin Mayo Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.