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Activision: "Guitar Hero on hiatus, we're not ending it"

Tue 12 Apr 2011 7:00am GMT / 3:00am EDT / 12:00am PDT
Publishing

Despite "disbanding" the Guitar Hero business two months ago, publisher suggests music franchise will return

Activision Blizzard

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Blizzard, Inc. is a worldwide pure-play online...

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Activision's Dan Winters has told GamesIndustry.biz that the Guitar Hero franchise is not necessarily dead, merely "on hiatus" for now.

Speaking as part of a larger interview to be published later this week, Winters revealed that the game could still see a return to the shelves, as long as the publisher sees an opportunity for it to succeed.

"Actually, just to clarify, we're just putting Guitar Hero on hiatus, we're not ending it," Winters explained. "We're releasing products out of the vault - we'll continue to sustain the channel, the brand won't go away. We're just not making a new one for next year, that's all."

We'll continue to sustain the channel, the brand won't go away. We're just not making a new one for next year, that's all

Dan Winters, Activision

Guitar Hero was originally culled as part of the cuts which Activision enacted in February in an attempt to concentrate business on a number of 'tentpole' titles. 500 jobs were also shed during that process.

Previously, Activision had issued a statement announcing that the business unit handling Guitar Hero would be disbanded. "Due to continued declines in the music genre, the company will disband Activision Publishing's Guitar Hero business unit and discontinue development on its Guitar Hero game for 2011," a press release read.

At its peak Guitar Hero was one of Activision's most bankable franchises, in part due to the high price of games bundled with plastic controllers. But a quick succession of sequels and spin-offs saw the series suffer from fatigue in the fickle console market.

As part of the same interview, Winters also revealed that he believes that another axed title, True Crime: Hong Kong, would have been a relatively high-scoring game, but would not have presented an adequate commercial opportunity for the publisher, as the presence of games like Red Dead Redemption make the genre too competitive.

"We think that the game was tracking to be a very good game," Winters said. "The question was really the size of the prize based on how good it could be. We are confident that thing would have been eighty plus. Eighty five maybe. They're a really talented group at United Front.

"We were really confident that they were tracking towards a very good game. The challenges in the market place right now, when you're talking about open-world games that are going to compete with titles like Red Dead Redemption, expectations for the consumer are really high.

"That would have been, and still might end up being, a very successful mid-tier opportunity for someone. But, as I said, we changed our business model to where we were going to change our business model to focus disproportionately on three big, huge monsters. Those three monsters are the Bungie, Call of Duty and Spyro titles.

"So that left the True Crime title being a mid-tier opportunity which we felt was an opportunity cost against other things. But we have a lot of confidence in the quality of the studio and the quality of the title, just not in the scale of the opportunity."

Those sentiments seem to conflict slightly with the thoughts of Eric Hirschberg, who was quoted as telling an investor call that the game "just wasn't going to be good enough."

Following the cancellation, True Crime developer United Front announced redundancies.

Dan Winters will be speaking at the Festival of Games, April 28-29. More information about the event can be found here.

16 Comments

"Due to continued declines in the music genre..."
Wonder whose fault is ...

Posted:3 years ago

#1

John Donnelly Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
What I am sad about is true crime, if it truly was shaping up to be an 80+ title they should have finsihed it.
You always have the option to sit on a title until the market is quiet and come in and get the sales that way.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University

436 497 1.1
So they sacked 500 people just to put a franchise on hiatus? Is that right?

Posted:3 years ago

#3

John Donnelly Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
No, they 'laid off' 500 people to cut costs and stem losses Daniel.

No sane publisher will just trash IP, you never know when it may be a good time to make use of it.
Maybe not as a full blown release but you have services that specalize in older games and digital markets opening up chances to sell existing IP from your archive.

The same will apply for the 'Hero' franchises, if a opertunity comes to make more money they will take it.
But they wont have an entire team sitting only doing 'hero' titles, DLC, marketing and whatnot.

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor

410 207 0.5
There isn't a difference between canning a franchise and putting it on hiatus if you still own the IP. Who is this guy trying to kid?

Posted:3 years ago

#5

John Donnelly Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
The shareholder?

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor

410 207 0.5
Gullible shareholders!

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,254 421 0.3
As for focusing on 3 big monters, Call of Duty, that's a given, but Bungie, it seems nieve to think that just because the last franchise they created was the all conquering Halo, there next title will automattically do the same. I'm sure it will be a very good game and won't do bad, it may sell steller numbers, but banking on that when the game doesn't even yet exist is crazy. And Spyro, again probably will do OK, but monster title? Don't suppose any one has numbers for the last couple of series entries? I'm guessing they sold well enough, but didn't set the chart alike.

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde

110 0 0.0
"... [we changed] our business model to focus disproportionately on three big, huge monsters. Those three monsters are the Bungie, Call of Duty and Spyro titles."

Did I miss a memo? When did Spyro become a 'monster'? I mean sure, he's a dragon, but I believe the term was being attributed to the IP.

[Edit: Agreed Andrew, your message wasn't up when I started writing.]

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tommy Thompson on 12th April 2011 1:38pm

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Alex Winton Website Administrator

11 0 0.0
Activision are placing hope in Spyro because the new Spyro game is designed to also sell a bucketload of toys to kids. In other words, it's the videogame equivalent of an 80s cartoon - or, in other other words, a more affordable replacement to the peripheral-based profits that Guitar Hero used to make.

True Crime's death is the saddest part of the news, to be honest. It was looking like a winner that bridged the gap between the first two, rather disparate, titles. If Activision didn't feel it was worth it, they should have sold it on - not canned it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Winton on 12th April 2011 3:51pm

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer

259 12 0.0
Just another exhibition of corporate greed for Activision - buy off studios and their franchises, milk them to the last drop, disband the studio, and when a profitable cycle turns around, immediately release new games and cash in again on other people's hard work.

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Alan Mealor Lead Artist, Lucid Games

7 0 0.0
So if TC: Hong Kong was pulled because it wouldn't compete with mega established titles like GTA and RDR where does that leave the Bungie project? If it's an FPS it runs the risk of competing directly with the now anualised COD, not to mention every other high profile FPS. Maybe it's a RTS just like the original Halo started out life, but then that puts in direct competition with Star Craft. so it's a MMORPG then, but that puts it up against WOW.

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart

219 7 0.0
ATVI's goal is to be best in class. TC was not best in class, RDR/GTA are. So TC was canned. It actually makes more sense to buy Take-Two. But equally ATVI are not going to overpay since it's shareholders money. Those days have gone (when ERTS tried to buy Take-Two for a ridiculous amount). One of the things that is probably holding ATVI back is the fact that it takes Rockstar so long to actually make a game. ATVI probably see Rockstar as a Infinity Ward (West/Zampella)/Blizzard 'it's done when it's done' type studio so they will not have the control to manage shareholders expectations. They've already had to suck it up with Blizzard telling them there's no title this year and then there's the fallout of the West/Zampella shambles.

Parking GH is a good idea. Who knows, if tablets take off it could spell a reincarnation for one of the most famous major casual gamer brands (or some other new technology we are yet to witness). It just doesn't make sense to lose $250m a year waiting to see if in the future you can reuse it. It's not the ATVI board's money it's ATVI shareholders who have made an investment.

As for Bungie that's a brilliiant masterstroke. Riddle me this.... if ATVI are so evil why did Bungie (the peoples developers and fiercely independent) go with ATVI in the end - especially when the announcement was made right at the time of the West/Zampella hoo haa. I think you will find it was because of ATVI's best in class sales / marketing machine and that they are best in class at running open worlds with best in class customer service and costs management (such as renegotiating utilities contracts for their server farms).

Come lads. Let's have more insightful thoughts instead of the random thoughtless ATVI hating nonsense you get on other games forums. This is an industry portal, try to rise above it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Graham Simpson on 13th April 2011 7:53am

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Daniel Kromand Product Manager - Games, Mobile, GameDuell

25 37 1.5
Thank you Graham. I would have a 'like' button if it was present, but a comment will have to suffice. I agree that the comments on this site has been going downwards and are often one dimensional rants.

Activision is still best in class when it comes to publishing and revenue generation, and while EA has been improving their business they are still only challengers in for example the upcoming CoD / BF battle.

Also, a good point that GH might be revitalized as a casual title. One of the franchise killers was -in my opinion- that the game was casual, but the price point was hardcore/traditional.

Posted:3 years ago

#14
Graham, agreed - Parking GH and rethinking their strategy and possibly new directions where the IP should go to is a good thing. Generally looking at what they are striving for is concerning though. You can't just have monsters (some of them old and wrinkled in the meantime) - you also need some kind of upcomelings.

Most game IPs don't just come out day 1 and always deliver a 10/10 or 85+ on Metascore, Without putting in some patience and passion they will not live long. TC may not be GTA and never will be, but it is a decent IP which maybe just needs some more focus and reorientation.

Posted:3 years ago

#15

Terence Gage Freelance writer

1,289 126 0.1
"As for Bungie that's a brilliiant masterstroke. Riddle me this.... if ATVI are so evil why did Bungie (the peoples developers and fiercely independent) go with ATVI in the end - especially when the announcement was made right at the time of the West/Zampella hoo haa. I think you will find it was because of ATVI's best in class sales / marketing machine and that they are best in class at running open worlds with best in class customer service and costs management (such as renegotiating utilities contracts for their server farms)."

Activision do indeed have some of the best if not the best marketing and sales power in the industry, but there are a couple of things to consider with this comment. Firstly, when they announced that Bungie and Activision were working together on Bungie's next universe, they said the two had been working together for about 8 or 9 months, meaning Bungie partnered with them long before the whole West & Zampella incident, and before Activision generally started to be the target of so much vitriol from consumers (the announcement of Bungie & Activision working together was likely earlier than it would have been in order to draw some heat away from the W&Z dismissal).

Further, Bungie are indeed a fiercely independent company, but they were also in the very esteemed position of having created and helmed one of the most successful series of gaming's modern era in Halo, meaning they were able to retain ownership of their subsequent developments and probably negotiate a very profitable deal for themselves in pairing with Activision. There are very few independent developers in the industry who are in a similarly strong position as Bungie; perhaps Epic and Valve and I would struggle to think of any others at quite that level (Level-5? Crytek?).

I do agree though that a lot of the Activision hate is a bit heavy-handed and OTT - ironically I have seen it coming from people who still bought Black Ops.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 13th April 2011 12:47pm

Posted:3 years ago

#16

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