In a recent conversation with Bobby Kotick, he told Forbes that they “abandoned a bit of the innovation that was required in the Guitar Hero franchise.” He admitted that after Activision purchased RedOctane in the midst of Guitar Hero rising in popularity, that they “didn’t really take the time… to understand audience behavior” unlike most of their other franchises. Kotick went on to say that DJ Hero was a mistake borne from not doing their research, and thus not realizing there was not a big enough market for the game to be a success.
Back in February, Activison said they were pulling the plug on the Guitar Hero franchise. Their sales had been declining, and games like Rock Band were focusing on real guitars. At this point, Activision realized it needed to seriously revamp the series before pushing out another game.
“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. 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 right out of the market, and we’re not going to tell anybody what we’re doing for [a while], 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 right now.”
Analysis: From this interaction it is readily apparent that Activision fully intends to bring Guitar Hero back. With games like Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith turning to the idea of teaching people how to actually play, it’s very clear that a simple rhythm game like Guitar Hero is not enough to suffice for the demographic anymore. They’ve birthed the will to play music in people, but have not nursed it to fruition. That’s exactly what they need to do, and it appears that Activision has finally realized this.
But are they too late? Rocksmith is planning on doing exactly this, and is slated for release in October. Rock Band has about the same number of fans as Guitar Hero, and they’ve already released the first game on this path. If Activision releases a new Guitar Hero game 6 months from now, they might have already lost their brand loyalty consumer base, and any newcomers will likely be more attracted to the better established games in this refurbished genre.