Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guitar Hero: Dilution

From Gamasutra:
Talking following the Activision results, CEO Robert Kotick reveals the Guitar Hero franchise is the third game in history to reach $2 billion in sales, criticizing a "rather precipitous [sales] falloff" for MTV's rival music game Rock Band.

Damn, Robert, did you misspeak? I think you meant to say that you've RELEASED two billion Guitar Hero games.

On Friday, I was in Target and saw Guitar Hero: Aerosmith on clearance for $39.95. That's the game and TWO Les Paul controllers for forty bucks.

I'm happy for Bobby and his $2 billion franchise, but Activision is drowning the market in product. This fall, we get Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero, and Band Hero, and don't forget Guitar Hero: Van Halen this summer, along with Guitar Hero: Metallica released barely a month ago. That's not even including Guitar Hero: Arcade, an arcade machine that we saw at the movies on Friday. Then there's the newly-announced animated series Guitar Hero: Hero, the fictional treament Guitar Hero: The Book, and the newly-announced Guitar Hero: That Guy You Saw Play Once At A Bookstore Who Released His Own CD.

I think what Activision is trying to do is release three Guitar Hero games or spinoffs for each game that Harmonix puts out. Hey, if we put out 3X the games, then people will spend 3X as many dollars on our games as theirs, right?

The problem, though, is that there's already a quality gap between the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises, and given the amount of dilution that Activision is inevitably creating here with all the different games, that gap will probably increase.

Maybe it won't matter. Maybe Guitar Hero has such gigantic name recognition that they will be successful indefinitely. As a long-term approach, though, I think the focus of the Rock Band brand (and Harmonix) on quality is a more strategic approach.

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