Activision : Why Guitar Hero died, and how we’re reviving it

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Guitar Hero, the previously popular and prosperous pursuit played with prodigal pretend plastic peripherals has perished. Many would say that it’s because Activision saturated the market with too many Guitar Hero games in too short a span. Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick believes it’s because his company failed to listen to its audience, and subsequently failed to innovate.

Speaking to Forbes, Kotick explained the company’s complacency following the phenomenal success of Guitar Hero 3.

"We didn’t really take the time that we usually take to understand audience behavior," he said.

"It was one of those things where we were resting on the idea that one of the essential fantasies of video games is to unleash your inner rock star. And it didn’t really matter how you did that, but as long as you were allowing people to unleash their inner rock star fantasies, you’d continue to be successful. So we went off on a passion project that had a point of differentiation – which is called DJ Hero.”

So their ardor and dedication was funneled in to that instead, leaving Guitar Hero neglected and poised to live off its previous success. DJ Hero ended up being critically well received, but sold rather poorly.

"We should have said, ‘Well, how many people really want to unleash their inner DJ?’ And then out of the people who do want to unleash their inner DJ, how many want to do it in the context of a game where you earn points, versus just taking a DJ deck or tools on their Macintosh and actually being a DJ? And it turns out it’s a very small market."

"These are the hardest failures, when you put your heart and soul into it and you deliver an extraordinarily well received game, and nobody shows up to buy it. So that’s what happened with DJ Hero.”

"At the same time we were so excited about going down this new direction with DJ Hero, I think we abandoned a bit of the innovation that was required in the Guitar Hero franchise.And so it was the double whammy of DJ Hero was unsuccessful, and then Guitar Hero became unsuccessful because it didn’t have any nourishment and care. So we made what I think was exactly the right decision last year [to cease development]."

Guitar Hero is set to rise from its ashes though. Kotick revealed that the company is exploring new  "technology pathways" and is working on "a variety of different prototypes" in order to revive the Rock Star dream.

"We said, you know what, we need to regain our audience interest, and we really need to deliver inspired innovation. So we’re going to take the products out of the market, and we’re not going to tell anybody what we’re doing for awhile, but we’re going to stop selling Guitar Hero altogether. And then we’re going to go back to the studios and we’re going to use new studios and reinvent Guitar Hero. And so that’s what we’re doing with it now."

I think he may have a point – but I think oversaturation was key in the franchise’s demise. Excluding mobile versions of the series, Activisions released Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero 5, Guitar Hero: Metallica, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Guitar Hero Smash Hits and Band Hero all within the same year. Had they instead gone the DLC route from the onset , building a platform instead of individual games, both guitar Hero and Rock Band would likely be in better shape.

Source : Forbes

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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