Activsion and Neversoft obviously set out to make Guitar Hero III more challenging than your average rhythm game, and downloadable tracks from bands like Mastodon and even Velvet Revolver make sense. Whether you like the songs or not, those additions have fit right in with the game’s furious button-mashing ethos.

So why does Activsion expect us to get excited about three tracks from No Doubt?

The company is barely managing to release three songs a month (hope you grabbed the free copy of Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ last weekend; I forgot to) while Harmonix is has consistently dropped three tracks a week since Rock Band bowed. And in a week that sees three fun and rather challenging Nine Inch Nails songs hit the competition, Guitar Hero III gets ‘Don’t Speak’, ‘Excuse Me Mr.’ and ‘Sunday Morning’.

Huh? No wonder Activsion didn’t trumpet this pack much before release.

It’s difficult to understand what’s going on in the camp of the increasingly monolithic GHIII publisher, but the company’s paltry efforts stand in stark contrast to the former evil empire but increasingly contrite EA. I’m tempted to call it a micro version of the shifts going on in the music business as a whole. Activision, with their guitar hero dinosaurs, is the old guard trying vainly to work from a model that has little bearing on today’s market. EA and Harmonix are music 2.0; they at least understand how customers want to buy music and play their game and are trying to go with the flow. (Hence all the Queens of the Stone Age tracks, ahem.)

I can’t wait to see how things shake out later this year when Activision releases the Aerosmith expansion and then Guitar Hero 4. Will those sales follow in the footsteps of GHIII‘s smash success, or has Rock Band stolen the thunder with incremental offerings? Does the public want one big release every year or more content spread across the calendar, even if that means they pay more in the long run?