Monday, September 21, 2009


I'm still working on the big The Beatles: Rock Band impressions post, feeling like Harper Lee working on her second book, but in the meantime, I wanted to mention something about marketing.

I've always felt that in the past, Guitar Hero was far more aggressively and effectively marketed than Rock Band. Guitar Hero had the additional advantage in that it already had an established reputation (ironically enough, largely due to Harmonix, who makes Rock Band).

Well, no more.

In the days leading up to the release of The Beatles: Rock Band, I saw television commercials for the game everywhere. Everywhere. And the commercials did a wonderful job of conveying the unique flavor of the game. The commercials gave me the feeling that the game was a worthy extension of The Beatles canon (it is) instead of just a game with a license to use songs by The Beatles.

That's a huge difference.

In contrast, I've seen very few commercials for Guitar Hero 5, and what I did see was always the same commercial: women in dress shirts ripping off Tom Cruise in Risky Business for the thousandth time (that's not tired or anything).

Based on that commercial, I'm still trying to figure out whether Guitar Hero is marketed by 14-year-olds or to 14-year-olds.

So it would seem that this time, based on both marketing and the quality of the product, that TB:RB and the unique experience it offers would reduce the sales disparity between the two franchises.

Or not.

Last week, Activision claimed this:
Dan Rosensweig, head of the Guitar Hero division at Activision, told the Financial Times...that Guitar Hero outsold Rock Band by four to one in the US and nine to one in other markets.

I'm incredibly skeptical of those sales numbers, but even if they were true, Activision reminds me of the guy taking speed who tells you that taking speed is good for him because he get so much done. That's a good time to go to the grocery store and buy him a card that says "good luck in rehab," because you'll be using it eventually. Activision is hell-bent on exploiting their franchises (exploiting, not building) for every last short-term dollar, all the while claiming that it's good for them.

This corrosive attitude starts with CEO Bobby Kotick. Last week, he said this:
I think the goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks that we brought in to Activision 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games."

I swear, every time this guy opens his mouth, he creates the impression that not only does he hate games in general, he hates the people who make them.

Hmm, that was a bit of a tangent.

Back on course--let's see what happens over the next three months, because TB:RB has an incredibly positive buzz going, and I think that's going to translate into strong ongoing sales. Also, while it's easy for holiday shoppers to understand that TB:RB is a unique product, I doubt that most people will be able to tell the difference between Guitar Hero versions.

Site Meter