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

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

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.

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