Activision has announced it will be scrapping the Guitar Hero franchise later this year, saying it was no longer possible to produce the games at a profit.
The company will continue selling previously-released games, including DJ Hero, along with downloadable content. However, there’ll be no new material after this month.
According to the company
, “we have seen rapid declines in the music genre, and unfortunately, based on current demand, we simply cannot continue to profitably make these games given the considerable licensing and manufacturing costs.”
That appears to suggest that most bands and publishing companies were getting large flat fees rather than working on a purely royalty basis, and aren’t prepared to change that set-up. Activision once claimed that Aerosmith made more money from their dedicated Guitar Hero game than from any single album.
The changes, which follow a $233 million loss in the last three months of 2010, will mean the closure of an entire Activision division with the loss of 500 jobs.
Debate is already underway about what caused the decline in sales and in turn this cancellation. The most popular theory is simply that the concept had run its course: it wasn’t easy to come up with new changes to the fundamentals of the game without making it too complicated for the casual audience, but when it came to new song content, the sure-fire hits had been exhausted.
As well as the music games, the company also says it has abandoned work on True Crime: Hong Kong, which would have been a sequel to the PS2-era Los Angeles and New York games. In a remarkably frank comment, Activision chief Eric Hirshberg
is quoted as saying that “to be blunt, it just wasn’t going to be good enough.”
It’s been reported that the game was still in development but had reached a point where it was playable from start to finish. Given how much has already been spent on the game, the fact that Activision considers it better to ditch rather than release it and risk a flop tells you something about how much of the costs of a game must lie in launch and publicity.