Activision Chief Regrets Not Making Guitar Hero With Harmonix

Illustration for article titled Activision Chief Regrets Not Making Guitar Hero With Harmonix

In 2006, Activision bought Red Octane, publisher of Guitar Hero, resulting in series developer Harmonix launching the rival game Rock Band and starting one of the uglier public feuds in gaming. Today, Activision's CEO said shunning Harmonix was a mistake.


"When we were buying Guitar Hero, or buying Red Octane, the makers of Guitar Hero, we knew about Harmonix," Activision's Bobby Kotick said today during a surprisingly warm and self-deprecating speech made at the DICE gaming convention. "We had always known them as sort of somewhat a failed developer of music games. They always had really great ideas but nothing that was really commercially viable until Guitar Hero. And [we thought], it's a good piece of software, and if we gave it to [Activision-owned Tony Hawk development studio] Neversoft, they'd knock the ball out of the park with this.

"We really didn't even think, 'Hey we should go to Boston, and meet these Harmonix guys and see what they're up to.' And, of course, if we had gone up, I think the world of Guitar Hero would have been rewritten. It would be a lot different today. And it would probably be a profitable opportunity for both of us and an opportunity where you'd have even more innovation in the category.

"A lot of times when you get caught up in the financial details of the business, it makes you overlook what's really important, which is who's passionate, who's committed, who's inspired and where's the next idea going to come from."

In the years that followed, Activision and Harmonix representatives frequently talked trash about each other's games, and, for a while, blamed each other for a lack of compatibility between the series' instruments. Those compatibility issues were resolved, but public comments about each other had not noticeably warmed.

Today, Harmonix is owned by MTV and develops the Guitar Hero rival Rock Band. The series has been distributed by Activision rival EA, but that EA deal expires at the end of next month. EA CEO John Riccitiello recently told investors he hopes a new deal can be set up.


Nick Ha

Kotick, wanna know how to apologize to all of us for fucking up the music genre?

Team up with Harmonix for a new music rhythm gaming series, or perhaps just one perfect music game under a new name.

Seriously, guys. A combination of the two greatest music rhythm gaming series of this gaming generation. It's a recipe for nothing short of pure awesomeness.

- Gameplay innovations from both games (GH5's party play mode, song-specific challenges, open notes on bass, band moments, armored notes, etc; RB2's solos, bass grooves, vocal harmonies, effects switches, and the World Tour mode)

- Marketplace access to the entire past Guitar Hero and Rock Band DLC music library, plus new songs specific to this game, and the option to import on-disc libraries from all of the non band-specific old games, with updated charts for everything

- GH5's graphics engine combined with the artistic talent responsible for the Rock Band games, ESPECIALLY Beatles: Rock Band

- RB2's entire menu system

- A choice between the Rock Band or the Guitar Hero note highway, and some more new designs, including customizable visual Power effects

- New instruments! The guitarist can switch the hardware on the guitar to either be clicky or gummy (RB2 frets + GH strumbar + GH button placements + Fender licensed instruments? HELLO?). All guitars come with touch-sensitive frets just below the hardware ones (that aren't sunken into the guitar) which can be played normally. And a drumset with GH5's softness and durability, but with RB2's 4 pads, 3 cymbals and a kick, plus GH's additional kick separately. All mics have buttons on them for navigation and Power execution

- Updated ports of every band-specific game (Beatles, Aerosmith, Metallica, Van Halen, Green Day) that are downloadable as $20-30 DLC expansion packs (it's impossible to just make them free or cheap, since it costs tens of thousands of dollars to relicense all of the songs)

- Ability to switch between a realistic style or a LEGO style from LEGO Rock Band

- Maybe even some fun shiet from other games, like Soulcalibur 4's extraordinarily simple-yet-deep character creation system (plus height sliders).

Call it... I don't know, Rock Hero. A combination of the two paragons of modern music rhythm gaming. And right there, you have a nigh perfect music game. The pinnacle of all music rhythm games released this generation. Perhaps, grimly, the swan song. But a swan song of epic proportions.

It'll probably be expensive too, like $250-300 or so. But it'll be the last of the last and the best of the best. I think it's deserving of a premium price.

I mean... I'd buy it. In a heartbeat. I'd throw out all my old instruments for this.