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Activision Trying To 'Reinvent' Guitar Hero 144

In an interview with Forbes, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick spoke about the rise and fall of the Guitar Hero franchise, saying "it became unsuccessful because it didn't have any nourishment and care." He then revealed that after effectively canceling the franchise last year, the company is looking for ways to resurrect it. "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." Kotick also addressed Activision's lack of foresight regarding DJ Hero: " hindsight, if you step back – and it really would have been a simple thing to do – we should have said, 'Well, how many people really want to unleash their inner DJ?'"
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Activision Trying To 'Reinvent' Guitar Hero

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  • it was a fad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:09PM (#36838804)

    time to move on

    • Activision tries to make another fad. News at 11.

    • I think people were saying that about the videogame crash of 1983. [] Thing gets overhyped, everyone hears everyone talking about it, tries it. Product is soulless and crappy, people take one look and then don't want anymore.

      That's guitar hero after harmonix got taken off of it. Maybe a little bit before actually, guitar hero rocks the 80s was pretty awful. Had the series been managed well, it may not have dried up like it did.
      • To be fair, Rocks the 80s was only made to fulfill contract requirements, not because Harmonix really wanted to make it...
        • Interesting, though I would have respected them more for "Guitar Hero: We are contractually obligated to release another one" and it be songs like "We're not gonna take it" and the all new track "Don't buy this game!"
      • Had the series been managed well, it may not have dried up like it did.

        There is a version that's been managed better, it's called 'Rock Band".

    • You think it was a fad, I quite enjoy it, still. It is just plain fun. For many it's a form of casual gaming, a concept unfamiliar to Slashdot it seems as you collectively all complain about the success of angry birds or other games which don't have perfect graphics and fantastic storylines.

      We still pull it out every couple of weeks for some fun and I'd happily buy another if they released one.

      Their biggest worries is that the downloadable content bombed. The songs were expensive, quite popish and often not

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        That's probably why it died. Face it - it was something that could last forever simply because there's an impressive amount of music out there. Even if they didn't release any more editions, there's tons of music out there for DLC.

        Activision, unfortunately, is a company focused on the short term profit than the long term longevity. They will go for $1 today instead of going for the $2 tomorrow (tne $3 the day after, etc). In the end, the desire for money drove the franchise into the ground. They've done it

        • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

          they don't have to do it with bungie, that one horse show already drove its only worth while franchise a mile underground (and yea mac fanboi's I have played their other games, they are 20 year old bland nothing that would have a footnote if they were not noted as being one of the 6 games released for mac in the mid 90's)

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        I dont care if you still enjoy it or not, that does not make it a fad or not. I still enjoy chia pets but its not making them "people going stupid nuts over them popular" like they were when new

  • I'm pretty sure most people were saying that DJ hero was an uninspired idea in forsight.

    Dear Kotick,
    people actually do get tired of cash-ins. I know that's literally everything that you've ever produced at EA, but there is more potential to a series than functionally-identical sequels with marginally different content.

    • Dear Kotick, people actually do get tired of cash-ins.

      "Dear i kan reed,
      See Madden."

      Laughing all the way to the bank, Bobby Kotick

    • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      So does the spelling of your handle "i kan reed" meant to indicate that it's supposed to be taken ironically? If not, you might want to go back and "rereed" the title.

      "Activision Trying To 'Reinvent' Guitar Hero"

      The company that Kotick works for and which currently owns the rights to Guitar Hero is Activision, not EA.

    • I didn't hear anything of the sort. And for that matter, the majority of gamers I know that played DJ Hero quite enjoyed it (myself included). Perfect? No, but fun. I'm not going to put it on the "greatest game of all time" pedestal or anything, but it was a worthy effort IMO.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      If the controller would have had atleast two discs it MIGHT have fed the "inner DJ".
      As it turned out, I really don't see why anybody would have bothered.
      Ofcourse the bad choice in mixes didn't help either.

    • Uninspired? What are you talking about. DJ Hero was far more interesting than just another rehash of the same plastic guitar thing.

  • The game's off the market Already and I never got a chance to play it. Oh well.

    • You can pick up used equipment cheap on ebay and craigslist.

    • Just get Rock Band instead. The game itself might not be getting any updates in the foreseeable future, but there are still new songs released weekly. Plus, Rock Band has the keyboard controller.

      The music game genre is not dead, it's just dead for Activision.

      • The music game genre is not dead, it's just dead for Activision.

        Damn straight, now where's my Parappa the Rapper 3 through 17?!

    • As a real guitarist, I got absolutely nothing out of this game. In hindsight, I can see how it might have been fun for... maybe 2.5 minutes...
  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:13PM (#36838866)

    Based on past experience, I'm pretty sure that Activision really doesn't get it. I'm sure that the "reinvention" will include a whole line of expensive new instruments that you will have to buy, with a game that lasts for exactly one Christmas season before fading into obscurity. The kind of attention to detail that kept gamers interested in Street Fighter for almost two decades is something that I doubt Activision values as a publisher.

    • Oh I'm sure they'll reinvent it in the only way they know how - by buying up a small innovative company and running it into the ground.
    • While I try never to defend idiots like Activision what makes you think that any new release won't be backwards compatible? The last 5 releases have been.

  • I know what they should do.

    Instead of the buttons and the thingy, they should have a system of 6 or 12 'strings' , whenever you press at the top in a particular combination a new sound comes out, and .. here's the kicker, you can play whichever song you like on it, without even needing a screen.

    We could call it uh.. Electric Guitar (Hero)

    • Your idea lacks one thing that brings people to music games in the first place: automatic grading. That's why Rock Band has the Pro Guitar.
    • You might actually be on to something. Imagine if by playing the game you could eventually play an actual guitar. I would pay for that. Might seem too much like hard work for most people though.
    • You jest, but daughter has found that playing a real guitar (she does) is actually easier than playing GH. Maybe the fault with the game is that it was more complex than the real thing, and the skills weren't transferable...
  • by graveyhead ( 210996 ) <[ten.scinorthctelf] [ta] [hctelf]> on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:16PM (#36838930)

    I'm picturing "Devil Went Down To Georgia". Good vs evil violins. Epic.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      guitar hero style game with a violin....... wouldn't happen to be an iCarly fan would you?

      • Clearly you are, which explains posting as Anon. I, however, proudly remember seeing that in an episode and thinking "*SO* want to play that!"

  • 1) Make it respond to motion controllers like the Kinect and Move. You can have cues to let the user know when to "pass out" on stage because you're strung out on heroin and Jack Daniels.

    2) Make it exclusively for the iPad. Because the kids today love those damned iPad things, right?

    3) Add 3D to the game. Put on your glasses to see sad concert sluts throwing their underwear at 3 D !!!!

    4) Make it cheaper to buy.....No, fuck that, charge EVEN MORE.

    5) Release a retro version for the Commodore 64.

    6) Do

  • Getting tired of you younguns spoiling our franchises! So what's the dark gritty reboot of GH going to be like? Are they going to completely mess with the origin story? Instead of sequels are they just going to release prequel after prequel?

  • by MimeticLie ( 1866406 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:21PM (#36839004)
    Guitar Hero - 2005
    Guitar Hero 2 - 2006
    Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock - 2007
    Guitar Hero World Tour - 2008
    Guitar Hero 5 - 2009
    Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock - 2010

    Not to mention the expansions:
    Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s - 2007
    Guitar Hero: Aerosmith - 2008
    Guitar Hero: Metallica - 2009
    Guitar Hero Smash Hits - 2009
    Guitar Hero: Van Halen - 2009
    Band Hero - 2009

    Apparently unlike with CoD you can't sustainably sell people a new guitar game annually. Van Halen and Warriors of Rock both sold less than 100k units in their opening weeks.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      With Guitar Hero: Van Halen, their sales numbers probably were hindered by the fact that they were giving it away as a promotion with Guitar Hero 5.

    • Yeah but who wants to buy a release which has songs from only one band?

      Given the cost of downloadable content by comparison each new release was a bargain. You know the type of buyer you're appealing to when the first thing people do when they hear of your new release is Google the set list. I wonder if they are running out of good songs.

      • I'd bet that a Boston/Foreigner joint version would sell a ton of units. I bought the Smash Hits edition because it had tracks from earlier versions that I hadn't played. But more than that, it had a lot of songs that I wanted to play.

        In any event, I've gone as far with that game as I can. Once someone finally succeeds with making a GH like game using a real guitar, that really works as a game, I'll be back on board. Until then, my daughter has recently discovered karaoke, and she's in to metal, so I mi

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      There was the Greenday and Beatles too or were they rock band or something?

      That was really part the problem too, you didn't just have your Guitar Hero, you had rock band, DJ hero, and all the other similar shit too, so you just lost track of what was what, when it was coming out, and what it would have in it. Take the Greenday thing for example, it seemed to have like less than half their tracks, the rest you had to buy as DLC, so why the fuck would I even bother with it if it's only half-arsed? I'm not goi

    • by tgd ( 2822 )

      So, you're saying what they really should do is make a game with a gun accessory where musical notes and sparks fly out with each headshot?

      I'd call it Snipe Hero: Music Edition.

    • by Syberz ( 1170343 )

      Not only did they saturate the market, but the cost was prohibitive.

      Having one game and the possibility of buying songs "à la carte" would be much more viable. I don't want to pay 20-40$ for 3 or 4 songs that interest me, but I'd definitely pay 1$ per song that I really do want.

  • 100 instruments. Woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and strings.
    DO IT!

    • Don't forget the conductor. But that'll probably need kinetic support or something.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Don't forget the conductor.

        I liked that game better when it was called "Just Dance". Heck, I liked "Tik Tok" better when it was called "Just Dance".

  • how about we get a mode where we can make our own music. mario paint had a mode where you could make your own music AND IT WASN'T EVEN A MUSIC BASED GAME
  • by the_raptor ( 652941 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:26PM (#36839086)

    The problem was market saturation. There was a point where multiple Guitar Hero (not to mention Rock Band) games were coming out a year. With the level of marketing and production that was going on it didn't take long until everyone who wanted Guitar Hero owned it. And as it was mostly a party game you only really sell a few copies to every group of friends instead of most of the group buying it like online multiplayer games.

    Most people weren't interested in the new game mechanics, they would buy new copies to get new songs. What they should have done was release a base game every 1 - 2 years and sold extra tracks (fully transferable between versions) from an online store.

    That way they would have nursed the brand instead of dressing it in a short skirt and pimping it out on a shady corner. Of course Kotick doesn't know how to do anything but rape franchises.

    • Most people weren't interested in the new game mechanics, they would buy new copies to get new songs. What they should have done was release a base game every 1 - 2 years and sold extra tracks (fully transferable between versions) from an online store.

      This is the key right here. I'm a real Guitar Hero fan. Love the game. But when a new release comes out I go and Google the setlist to decide if I should buy it or not. The only real change in mechanic that has had a benefit was the party modes where people could enter and leave a song at whim without needing to restart.

      They do sell online songs but given the price it's easier to buy the whole new game if the setlist is good.

  • We didn't need guitar hero 1,2,3,Aerosmith, Metallica, band hero, world tour, 5, etc that were not all compatible with one another. Harmonix had it right supporting the same platform through multiple versions. I think most people just got tired of the genre. My family has hundreds of DLC tracks for Rock Band, used to play it a ton. We just burned out on it.
  • DJ Hero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:31PM (#36839150)

    I really don't know what could be done about Guitar Hero to make the experience fresh and engaging. It looks to me like they're risking turning it into a convoluted and disappointing experience.

    As for DJ Hero, I don't think the problem was that the audience wasn't there, the problem was that the music selection was bad. I mean, who hasn't gone to a dance club? The problem is that the music was heavily pop-oriented with a lean towards hip hop. They completely missed a huge core demographic for the game. It's like the whole game was based around a single DJ who evidently had a thing for a mish-mash of contrasting styles. The persistent theme seemed to be something new and old. They should have offered selections based around a range of popular genres; trance, house, drum n bass, dubstep, hip hop etc. Hell, they could have even included pop mixes. And keep the mixes within those particular genres.

    Ideally the game would have let you choose any two tracks, but that would have been a daunting challenge to pull off automatic mixing. The thing is that the game was fun, albeit too easy. The music selection was the big letdown.

    • the problem was that the music selection was bad.

      Yes, yes it was. I would have been first in line for a Trance/House DJ Hero.

    • Sorry, all the 'genres' you mention are just plain old disco and it still sucks.

    • There is actually software for doing your own mixing. It's quite sophisticated and a lot of fun to play with, but a bit more complicated that one would probably want for casual playing around. It can also interface with external, professional controllers which work extremely well.

      That said, Guitar Hero was the same: one could just go out and buy a guitar and make one's own music. But hey...

  • Remove the bottom part of the guitar and put a hole on the end of the fretboard. About as creative as it gets 8)

  • For those who've moved on from Guitar Hero to a real guitar, it's worth checking out JamOrigin [] and keeping an eye on Rocksmith [].

  • What happened was the day Harmonix left, so did all the innovation. Apart from the setlist of Guitar Hero 3, nothing good came from the Guitar Hero camp after that.

    Rock Band, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength - RB3 is a truly excellent game, full of features and with a really good business model. If you want an example of DLC being done right, look here.

    Personally, I'd rather not see Guitar Hero come back. As much as competition is good, Harmonix have done more without competition than GH ever did. I've spent a lot of money on Rock Band, and I feel every penny was worth it. The pro modes are amazing (I'm one of around 1500 Squier owners outside the USA), the game is, in general, very good - and they are doing the exact opposite of what Guitar Hero did. They made a polished, well made game with lots of features, and are not releasing a sequel any time soon - RB3 is here to stay for some time, and they are continuing to support it with DLC. They are one of the few studios, alongside Valve and a few others, who I truly feel are doing what they believe is good for the games, not just their wallets (fortunately the two seem to go hand in hand).

    Harmonix have done really well with Dance Central too - which I hear is also a great game, although not really my kind of thing.

    • by Anonymous Coward


      I'm glad that Guitar Hero is gone so that there is one single platform getting the licenses to songs as DLC.

      Activision never got a clue on how to make GH party friendly. Rock Band had no fail mode, vocal adjustments without going to a buried menu, players could drop in and out during a song...GH had none of that, it was competition mode all the way and it made new users feel like failures.

      Lets face it, it was drunken karaoke with plastic instruments that really made Rock Band a success and GH was n

  • Bobby Kotick is the devil.

    No other explanation is needed.

  • They were releasing like 3 games a year for fuck's sake, with concurrent releases of Rock Band, which was pretty much the same thing. People burned out. I'm sure it'll come back but they need to give it time and let it become novel again.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
      Yeah, I kind of feel this way. After picking up my first band game, I couldn't play it enough. Got two expansion packs, played them all the way through. Picked up a music theme I liked, then picked up version #2 of the game for more songs, then tried the competing product ... and realized I was pretty much sick of just doing the same thing over and over. Especially putting up with gaming the points or the venues, or jumping through the necessary hoops to unlock the songs I wanted to play, which first requir
  • by petsounds ( 593538 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @05:58PM (#36839612)

    Remember guys, this is Bobby Kotick, the guy who when he took over Activision famously said, "I want to take all the fun out of making video games." That line was meant to convey that he wanted to trim the fat at Activision, but in reality he just doesn't understand what it means to make good games. If no fun goes into a game, no fun is had playing one.

    His quote that Guitar Hero failed because it didn't "receive nourishment and care" is probably the most honest thing he's said. But from everything I know about how that company operates (and I know a bit more than the average public), Kotick is a total micromanager, down to the tinest details. That's an alright quality if you're Steve Jobs, but Kotick comes from running packaged goods companies. He has no fracking clue about what makes a good game, or what makes something fun.

    Look at the Rock Band guys by contrast. These were the developers who invented the original Guitar Hero gameplay. They have a passion for the game and wanted to see how far they could push it (and were given the freedom to do so). Would Kotick have imagined or approved turning the fake instruments into MIDI controllers, offering a Pro mode to teach people the fundamentals of playing a real instrument? No, because Activision doesn't innovate. They buy an established IP and run it into the ground. The original studio's best developers usually leave because they know what awaits them at the Activision grindhouse.

    Kotick is risk-adverse. His philosophy is the same as a typical packaged goods CEO -- test market the shit out of a tiny variation on an existing product to make it palatable to the widest possible audience. But that doesn't work with artistic mediums like films and games. It just turns creativity, fun and vision into gruel. Unfortunately, I think this is becoming the standard in the industry now, as other game corps have seen Activision's financial success. Look at the number of innovative games from the PS2 era versus the PS3/360 era. Part of this is Japan wanting to emulate western studios (to their folly), as well as hiring incompetent western CEOs, but I think it's more due to game companies just not wanting to take big risks anymore.

    • by Nick Ives ( 317 )

      Uh, no. Kotick became CEO in 91. During his watch we've had Quake, Interstate '76, Mechwarrior 2 and the Jedi Knight games.

      Lately Activision has taken a turn for the worst what with their focus on milking sequels, but it wasn't always that way. He didn't invent the idea of milking sequels, he stole it from Hollywood. Hollywood have been doing that for years and making money hats; the Transformers films have made billions of dollars.

      So yea, that formula does work for mass market consumer art.

      I do my part by

    • I agree with everything you said. In particular, while I think you meant to write "risk-averse", your neologism of "risk-adverse" is far more accurate.

    • Look at the Rock Band guys by contrast. These were the developers who invented the original Guitar Hero gameplay.

      Konami should be credited for the "invention" of the gameplay in Guitar Hero and Rock Band, not Harmonix. The only reason Guitar Hero and Rock Band came into existence were because of the peripheral manufacturer Red Octane who was previously famous for making Dance Dance Revolution controllers wanting to invest in someone to copycat Konami's Guitar Freaks outside of Japan. It was only a matter of time before Drum Mania's gameplay was included as well. If Harmonix would be credited for anything it would be

  • You've got musical content, but you've made it a game - it doesn't need to be a 'game'. There can be game-like aspects of it, but if you're going to produce a 'turntable' interface, don't make it a flimsy piece of garbage, bring the cost up another $50 (or heck, even $100), and you're still $50-100 cheaper than the cheaper DJ 'real' turntable interfaces. Make it something you could actually DJ a party with and not look like a complete nerd.

    As someone who has spent many, many hours, days, and months per suin

    • A turntable is a home appliance, not a musical instrument.

    • About 5 years ago, turntables outsold guitars in Japan - probably not the case now but there are LOTS of people who have inner DJs to let out, you just didn't provide the right tools.

      That's definitely not why DJ Hero failed. Beatmania (the game DJ Hero was trying to copy) was a massive success in the 90's are early 2000's. Rythm and music games have proven to be successful, regardless of how unrealistic Guitar Hero is to playing a guitar or Dance Dance Revolution is to real dancing. You don't need to provide realistic tools in order for people to enjoy it. DJ Hero definitely didn't fail because of the lack of quality or realism of the turntable interface, it would have failed regardless

      • by Renraku ( 518261 )

        I'd fucking kill for a good Beatmania game besides that stupid PS2 one that was released in America. You know, if they just updated the old mixes for the US PS2s I'd buy them all.

  • And you'll have to re-buy the songs all over again! How does that sound, kids?

  • Gamers got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!

  • Well, how many people really want to unleash their inner DJ?

    Super Greg! []

  • Activision.... reinvent....
    This wont compile.
  • by DJHeRobotExVV ( 2402664 ) on Thursday July 21, 2011 @10:27PM (#36842032)
    50 people lost their jobs from Vicarious Visions in Mendands, NY with the death of the Guitar Hero franchise on February 9th. The cited reason in the termination paperwork was the elimination of the Guitar Hero "Business Unit". The sad fact is that Vicarious Visions was in the process of reviving the franchise - injecting it with the "creativity" and "inspired innovation" that Kotick bemoans the series lacking due to Neversoft's mis-handling, the same innovation and creativity that it will never have again now that all of the creative people who were to see the series through to its subsequent release in 2012 have been laid off, in perhaps the most hush-hush manner ever surrounding a game's utter implosion. It's easy to connect the dots as to what Activision were doing - observe Neversoft's staffing cupboard being laid bare by their corporate overlords, and the flocking of specific audio people and Neversoft staff to the Capital region. Observe the sudden uptick in hiring over the past 24 months.

    Do note, please, that all of the rank-and-file employees who had been in the industry for more than a few years and hadn't yet drank the corporate Kool-Aid could see the writing on the wall years before the franchise started to flag. It was plainly obvious that Guitar Hero was never anything more than a quizzical curio of the executives, one that had materialized a billion dollars into their net worth for no good reason that any of their MBAs, marketing research, or "producers" could cite, but one that people appeared to want in record numbers. As they saw it, perhaps without realizing it, the series was one to be expanded, not honed - mass-produced, not polished. Guitar Hero, in the land of business-people, was to become as ubiquitous as the Wii, the Xbox, or Playstation - they wanted Guitar Hero to be come not a game, but a platform, and any gamer worth his or her salt can tell you that that is impossible. You reach market saturation, you polish for one iteration or perhaps two if demand does not flag, you move on. The fact, however, that (again) any gamer can tell you is that unless you have a brand that is couched in gamer culture that existed well prior to the introduction of Internet connectivity at large - compare to Mario or Madden, as even the Sonic franchise has become lackluster in light of its lack of pre-90's roots - people will not remain interested for more than a few years at best. A new fad comes along, staff turnover comes along, new hardware comes along, and with new things people want new franchises.

    The sad fact is that the employees who balked at the notion of monetizing the Guitar Hero series were met with harsh reprimands - money is a cruel mistress, and it can make people do cruel things without even realizing it. Certainly, when one drives a new car into work and shuts that door for the first time in front of his coworkers, one would never admit that it could all come crashing down within six months, 12, 24 or ever. Employees that balked the loudest were laid off the soonest as the music/rhythm franchise began its inexorable decline, while those who praised every iteration, every minute variant were richly rewarded for their sycophantic loyalty.

    The sad fact here is that there are no winners or losers, now, at the sad end of The Music/Rhythm Wars. Konami's interest level in polishing the Revolution and Freaks series seems to have ended long ago, Power Gig was a failure, Rock Band 3 sold worse than Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, roughly 500 people across different Activision studios lost their jobs in one go when Activision officially announced the termination of the Guitar Hero business unit, not to mention the studio closings and down-sizing occurring over the past two years - likely as an attempt to keep the Guitar Hero franchise afloat as it hemorrhaged money, Harmonix were sold off by Viacom for $50 and the assumption of their considerable debts - this after having their $150 million performance-based bonus requested to be returned as a result of their lack of meeting s
  • When rocksmith comes out soon, guitar zero will have nothing to offer than can't be had (likely for better) between that and rock band.

    Personally, I would have tossed GH under the bus for rock band just because the strum bar click was so damn annoying.

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