Guitar Hero was once a shining star of a video game franchise, with each yearly installment generating more excitement than the last. Now the series is on indefinite hold. An internal Activision memo obtained by Giant Bomb poses a compelling question. "Isn't Call of Duty today just like Guitar Hero was a few years back?"
It's an intriguing start to a revealing document, granting insight into the publisher's feelings about what is undoubtedly one of its biggest money makers. It's one of two internal Activision memos obtained by Giant Bomb's Patrick Klepek following the announcement earlier this year that Guitar Hero's 2011 title was being cancelled and the series put on hold.
The uncertain state of Guitar Hero's future had gaming fans and members of the press alike pondering what the move meant for Activision's other flagship franchises. Activision publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg dispatched these internal memos to help explain the situation and reassure the company that the Call of Duty franchise was safe.
How does Hirshberg answer his own question? Why is Call of Duty safe?
He first cites differences between the two franchises' rise to power. Guitar Hero took the gaming world by storm, quickly reaching extreme heights of popularity before slowly but surely fizzling out. Conversely, Call of Duty had a relatively modest debut its audience growing with each new installment.
Hirshberg also notes that while Guitar Hero was an early entry in an untested genre, Call of Duty is a first-person shooter, one of the most stable and proven of the video game genres.
Both points are valid, but no executive issues a memo of this caliber without including a call-to-action.
"If you really step back and dispassionately look at any measurement-sales, player engagement, hours of online play, performance of DLC-you can absolutely conclude that the potential for this franchise has never been greater," he said. "In order to achieve this potential, we need to focus: on making games that constantly raise the quality bar; on staying ahead of the innovation curve; on surrounding the brand with a suite of services and an online community that makes our fans never want to leave. Entertainment franchises with staying power are rare. But Call of Duty shows all of the signs of being able to be one of them. It's up to us."
So no worries, Call of Duty fans. Rest assured that no matter what happens with your believed franchise, someone at Activision publishing knows how to write a damn good memo. Hit up Giant Bomb for more Activision inspiration.