During his address at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference earlier today, Activision boss Bobby Kotick was talking up Guitar Hero's plans for world domination. While Rock Band continues to struggle to reach American shelves, let alone European ones, Activision have outlined the series' potential to take over not just Europe, but Asia as well.
As far as Europe's concerned, it's a simple approach. The first step is getting enough product on the market, which they're already doing: Kotick says that while North America was the focus in 2007 as far as shipping allocations and marketing went, in 2008 they'd be focusing on Europe. The second step was in securing more local content: Activision's "relationship" with Universal music has given the company access to a huge roster of European acts, not only for the primary markets of Britain, France and Germany, but also bands that will let them target other areas, such as Spain and Italy.
Sounds familiar, I know, and probably not enough to win out over Rock Band's charms. Then again, so long as Rock Band remains a ghost on European release schedules, that's a moot point: Europeans can play Guitar Hero III, right now. They can't play Rock Band, and don't know when (or even if) they'll be able to play Rock Band.
As for Asia (Kotick only specifically addresses China and Korea), well, things are a little more ambitious. Citing experience they've already picked up from Blizzard - one of the few Western devs to crack the Asian market - Kotick says that future success in the region will rest not on boxed products like it does in the West, but in getting the game into internet cafes.
There are, Kotick says, 300,000 of them just in China. They're trusted local institutions. They have credit and billing structures already in place, and are a place where people meet, hook up and hang out. Using the PC version of GHIII as an example, all they'd need to do would be to hook a USB guitar into a PC, flood the game with local content (again, thanks to their new relationship with Universal), setup organised competitions and ladders and watch the cash money come flooding in.
"It's an incredibly natural way to think about guitar hero in a market like China", said Kotick, who also stated that such a move would be entirely on a pre-paid basis, and that they could have "multiple instruments in the same room". Funny. He could have just said "guitars", but no, he said "instruments". Multiple instruments.