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Activision explains Guitar Hero's return, is 'flattered' by toys-to-life competition

A portion of a GamesBeat interview with Activision's Eric Hirshberg...

GamesBeat: Why was this the right time to bring back Guitar Hero?

Hirshberg: We had the right idea and the right execution. We set a very high bar for ourselves internally. It’s obviously a strong brand and a strong franchise. It’s something people had a lot of love for. But it was clearly also out of gas. It was in need of meaningful reinvention. We made a deal with ourselves that we wouldn’t bring it back just to bring it back. We wouldn’t bring it back unless we felt like we had reinvented it for the next generation of gamers and hardware, and we have.

It’s a very different game built on a very familiar set of core principles and fantasies. Every bit of it has been reconsidered. The live audience that responds to you in real time, that’s visceral and immersive. The six-button guitar, with the two rows of three, introduces both more advanced gameplay, more combinations and more challenging gameplay for the advanced player, as well as more approachable gameplay for the beginner with the three-button mode. And we have GHTV. One of the things that we always wanted to introduce was the ability to keep the music fresh. We’ve done that in such an elegant way, where we just have this stream of music videos you can play. That allows us to keep the music fresh and allows you to compete with your friends online. It makes it an even better party game than it was before.

GamesBeat: Toys to life is becoming pretty vicious, pretty competitive. What do you think about the changes in that market?

Hirshberg: It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we’re very flattered. A lot of companies have decided that this mechanic is something they want to be a part of. At the same time, of course, we had a very unusual period where we had no competition because we invented the category. It was only a matter of time until that ended because it was successful. Of course it’s a good strategy for other companies.

Honestly, it doesn’t do us any good to focus on or talk about our competition. We can only control our own actions. What we are focused on is innovating every time. We committed to that and we’ve delivered that. We’ve never made the same game we did the last year with new characters. We’ve always brought in new innovation, a new reason to come back, and a new way to blur the lines between the physical world and the digital world. Swappable toys, reaching into the game world, playing as the villain, adding land, air, and sea vehicles this year—Each time we’ve brought something new and fresh.

I’ve said many times that we make kids say “Wow” for a living with Skylanders. That’s what’s kept us on top. Right now it’s a $4 billion category and we represent $3 billion of it. We’re going to stay committed to that strategy of innovation.

Full interview here

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