Activision Boss Says DJ Hero Helped Kill Guitar Hero

Activision Boss Says DJ Hero Helped Kill Guitar Hero

I like video games. I like turntables. I like DJ Shadow, I like the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, the Scratch Perverts. Yet I’ve thought DJ Hero was a stupid idea from the moment the series was first announced.

Not only did its lumping together of hip-hop, dance and electronica dilute the series’ focus, but being a DJ adhering to something with scores and failures just seemed…faintly ridiculous. Maybe that’s why the series didn’t sell so well! That’s certainly what Activision boss Bobby Kotick thinks, at any rate.

“…we should have said, ‘Well, how many people really want to unleash their inner DJ?'”, Kotick tells Forbes in an interview. “And then out of the people who do want to unleash their inner DJ, how many want to do it in the context of a game where you earn points, versus just taking a DJ deck or tools on their Macintosh and actually being a DJ? And it turns out it’s a very small market.”

Kotick even goes so far as to lay part of the blame for Guitar Hero’s demise at the feet of DJ Hero, saying “going down this new direction with DJ Hero, I think we abandoned a bit of the innovation that was required in the Guitar Hero franchise.”

Kotick may not have addressed all the reasons for the sharp decline in music game sales – the fact there were just too many games released too quickly was surely the main catalyst – but genuinely fessing up to any mistakes in a public forum is always appreciated from a gaming executive.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick: How To Be An Innovator [Forbes]


    • Regardless of what you think of the GH franchise, I don’t understand why you’d have a hard time seeing it as bringing innovation. As an outsider looking in yeah, they were the same game with new songs, but each new iteration brought in some new elements.

      – Touch sensitive slider bar on fretboard
      – Actual differentiation between drum and cymbal inputs
      – Double kick
      – Strumless purple notes
      – Open notes on bass
      – Option for any combination of instruments (eg 4 guitars)

      And that’s just to name a few. I think it’s so easy to overlook the innovation that was actually done with the series when you look at just how many games they released (by the same token though, Harmonix is becoming guilty of releasing too many Rock Band games as well).

    • The turntable spins the wrong way in the UI flow (Turtables spin clockwise). I would like an official appology from Activision for that.

      I feel it shows how much research was put into the title by game-developers familiar with what they were creating (where Guitar Hero came from) and how much the decision to do DJ Hero was driven by Consumer Insights & Marketing.

      Additionally if they had been able to come up with a controller where the turntable platters turned (it is not called a statictable) they may have been able to reproduce the magic from Guitar Hero where you felt like you were playing the real instrument.

      What hurts so much about the comment he makes is he recognises the score flow – but this would have been easily tweaked. He doesn’t recognise the market that went to the laptop will still not have years of training and practice, they will just get a product with a mouse and a keyboard that feels more like the instrument than Activision’s statictable.

  • I quite enjoyed DJ Hero, personally – I’m pretty good at Guitar Hero (not one of those freaks you see on the internet, but I can 100% Hotel California on Expert), and the unfamiliar-ness of the DJ deck rather than the guitar made it a bit more of a challenge. I can totally see how it wasn’t for everyone, though.

  • ROFL! he’s a damn retard.

    The series had zero innovation, and each game barely improved upon the one before it, people were shelling out full price for what should have been expansion packs.

    Then people realised they owned the same game twice, or more.

    Also DJ hero was shit and barely sold at all.

    Bobby Kotick, once again proves he’s a terrible, ignorat greedy human being in charge of a terrible, greedy, ignorant company.

  • I’ve never been into the guitar hero games. I bought DJ Hero and I actually really enjoy it. It’s fun and I like the music.

  • I had no problem buying a couple of guitar hero games knowing they were largely the same, it was the mainstreaming of the music that killed it for me.

    I wanted to be A ROCK GOD!

    Not some pop guitarist.

  • the reason Guitar Hero failed was because they refused to acknowledge that DLC is the better delivery method as opposed to a reskin with new songs

    • This. This is the reason GH failed in the marketplace, and why Rock Band is still going strong with new DLC each week.

      • Add the delusional premium price tag for each bi-annual release GH has had since GH 3 compared to what a DLC price package should have been(likeless than %40) as well.

  • I would’ve bought DJ Hero, but I’m not really big on the mainstream hiphop market. They should’ve focused on some narrower genre pools.

  • I prefer GH to DJH and have 3 itterations of the GH franchise with GH Metallica being the best of them.

    I bought DJH for my 8 year old stepson and had a go myself but the appeal wore off in an afternoon.

    I still fire up GH from time to time though…

  • I quite enjoyed DJ Hero & Guitar Hero both. I even had DJ friends who got right into DJ Hero. If only they released as many new DLC songs as Rock Band does they may have survived.

  • DJ Hero was awesome and I liked it more than Guitar Hero because of the song list.

    And no, I’m not a DJ. I can’t mix anything for the life of me.

  • What, only now does he realise that the ‘I wanna be a DJ’ market is tiny? Anyone could have told him that without the need for any market research..

    • I’ve worked in the music industry for a few years, and I must say that the ‘I wanna be a DJ’ market really isn’t that tiny…

      Kotick was referring to the small percentage of people who want to become DJs, but ALSO want to do it by playing a video game, rather than doing it irl…

  • Here’s my theory – you had a buttload of people who bought Guitar Hero on the PS2, when the new machines came out PS3, Wii, Xbox etc people who didn’t already have the peripherals might have bought them at that point. But if you already own all these plastic guitars on the PS2 you’re gonna hesitate to get them again for your Xbox or Wii.

    If you look at the sales for Guitar Hero titles the biggest numbers were on the PS2, followed by the Wii, then the 360 and PS3 in a distant 3rd and 4th, so casual gamers bought the bulk of these things and when Activision stopped supporting the PS2 the sales dropped because people didn’t see the value in buying the same peripherals 2 years after for a different machine.

    The high cost of the peripherals was a major stumbling block.

  • Good News Everyone! Bobby Kotick has seemingly caught up with 2009! His consciousness appears to be approaching our own location in space/time and with any luck will be fully synched with the rest of humanity in 2016, thus ushering in the apocalypse!

  • I think an appropriate question would be “does ANYONE know what innovation is?” Some call them gimmicks and some call them features but an increasing number of people seem to think making games is easy. That innovation is paramount to survival. That someone who creates a great game like guitar hero owes it to everyone to blow them out of the water with every iteration. Like they just sneeze and games that innovate and generate respectable numbers come out.

    It’s absurd that people call games like Call of Duty and Guitar Hero awful just because they’re popular to the casual audience and they improve instead of “innovate”. By these standards, how many games actually “innovate” upon each iteration? Ever? Should someone who’s invested millions into a game look at sales figures and say “Fuck no, we can’t make another one” just because they’re worrying about “innovation”? A game is good if it’s fun. Not because it’s competing in some pissing contest with the louder voice of the internet.

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