Activision Chief Regrets Not 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," he said today during a surprisingly warm and self-deprecating speech made here 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 developed 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.


    Wow, Its funny. Ever since I owned GH3 for PS2 i thought "Why'd they can harmonix? They had a good thing going" GH3 was okay.... but it felt different... and its always felt different from 1 and 2 from then on.

    Paraphrase:"If I wasn't such a dick, I could have made heaps more cash."


      "The Activision daily money-fight would occur with even larger-denomination bills"

    The thought process is mindbloggling though...

    Harmonix are a "failed developer of music games", something that I personally don't believe as FreQuency and Amplitude are 2 brilliant games, but "failed" for Activision we know is about sales figures.

    So I agree, yes those games didn't sell that well and Guitar Hero did change that, with something that was "commercially viable".

    So Activision now decide that Harmonix has made a "good piece of software".

    Red Octane believed in what Harmonix was making otherwise they wouldn't have funded or distributed it in the first place. They didn't make the game though, which is the most important part.

    Which comes to the obvious question, even if you have low standards of the developers, they are the people that MADE the game, a game which Activision only became interested in because the genre/market blew up. Why would you not go and meet with them? Instead they bought the other mob who owned the name and pretty much the whole IP because they funded it.

    Despite Activision/GH having the marketshare, the Rock Band platform is superior in everyway. It's amazing what "failed developers" can do when they have some substancial time and funding behind them, something MTV/EA have given them.

    So removing the competition would have resulted in better games?

      Sure it would, because there wouldn't have been so many -insert name here- Hero games out there. Not to mention the fact that there wouldn't have been any issues getting certain games released here in Australia *cough*RB2*cough (funny part about that is I'm actually sick, so I could pull that cough bit off quite easily).

    I know hindsight is 20/20, but even still, from what I have learned from games is you do NOT take a series from one dev, give it to another and expect it to take off. At least, not when the shunned company decides to go 'screw you guys, we're going to do better' - and frankly, after playing both, I am a massive RB1/2 fan and it was a massively pompous move to go 'we can do better than them, lets buy their series and give it to our own studio'. It's just one of those things that also gives the 'pity card' to Harmonix, even though they don't really need it.

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