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Everyone's a Hero - Part Two

Dan Rosensweig talks about the peripherals market, the importance of online and why Hero games are good value

In part one of this interview with Guitar Hero CEO Dan Rosensweig, he talked about the success the company had seen with the latest edition of Guitar Hero, and how the launch of DJ Hero was shaping up.

Here in part two he looks at the health of the peripherals market, outlines the importance of the online component, and explains why Hero games are good value, even in tight economic times. Frank Gibeau, EA Games president, told us at Gamescom this year that there was a question mark over the market for peripherals - what's your take on that issue?
Dan Rosensweig

I think the broader picture is for something like Guitar Hero 5 - this is the fifth version - we're still growing the audience quite substantially, but we also have a huge installed base. So there's a shift from hardware-only sales - like you'd imagine in the first two or three rounds - that each round you bring out you should see an increasing percentage of software versus hardware.

So for 2009 we planned for that, we expected that to happen because we were focusing on selling a great deal of the games to the installed base that already loves the game - and also selling to new customers. That's why we made the first level easier, and you don't get booed off.

We expected the proportion to be more software than hardware - but with DJ Hero it's going to be all hardware, because we haven't sold it before. So I think there's a market place for great games with great value. And when it comes to talking to investors, do you prep them in terms of how that revenue splits out?
Dan Rosensweig

One of the beauties of running a division rather than running the company... that's what Bobby and Thomas and Mike do. What I do is build an organisation that focuses on creating the world's most fun games to play, that get incredible reviews, and that the fans love.

But our business plans assumes greater software than hardware in GH5, and obviously the full bundle in DJ, and a balance in Band Hero - because Band Hero is going to sell a lot to existing Guitar Hero players that want more pop, more modern, more singing-oriented content... in addition to GH5 or perhaps instead of GH5.

That'll bring a whole new audience - more families, more women - so that one's more balanced. And what are the latest numbers on GH5 sales?
Dan Rosensweig

I don't think we've released the numbers, but what I can tell you is that in addition to being extremely pleased - particularly here in Europe - the public report suggests that we've outsold 2/2.5/3-to-1 over Rock Band... and we've probably sold more copies of Guitar Hero 5 than any other Guitar Hero game at launch.

The category's been up over 25 per cent, we've been up over 50 per cent - we feel really bullish about it. And is that ratio based on unit sales or revenue?
Dan Rosensweig

Both in this case. In the US what we've seen is fascinating - we saw a very big launch and very big PR from our competitor, and we did incredibly well at the start. Our second and third week sales weren't really affected when they came out - but I went last night to the home pages of the big retailers, including GameStop, and we're a top-five selling game at GameStop right now. The other guys are nowhere to be found.

So over the course of the season - look, Neversoft just built a great game. It's the best one we've ever done. The basic gameplay mechanic hasn't really changed since the first edition was launched, although obviously with DJ Hero that's branching out, but do you have any concerns -
Dan Rosensweig

Let's be clear - the basic mechanic of car-driving hasn't changed either. There are certain things which shouldn't change, but the feature set and capabilities - that may not sound big to non-players - are huge... jump-in, jump-out is a huge advancement in the game.

The connectivity to the internet and the ability to bring more music, more experiences at different levels... all of these things are substantial changes to the game that have been innovations - but at the end of the day what people are familiar with is: You gotta hit the notes.

You don't want to change that mechanic - what's the point of playing guitar if you don't do that? I think that basic mechanic should remain the same, but what you do around that mechanic, what we've done - more social, more connected - all of those things are tremendous innovations.

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