Forbes reporter fails to do basic research, looks like ass in the process
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
There's quite a stir in the gaming world about the recent profile of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick in Forbes magazine. Not only is it sort of annoying in terms of how slobbering of a profile it is, there's one phrase in the article in particular that caught our attention:
[referring to competitor Electronic Arts (EA)]: "EA also teamed with MTV to sell Rock Band, a shameless knockoff of Guitar Hero that added drums, bass and a microphone to the world of make-believe rock stars."
Um.... no. That's pretty much exactly wrong. For the readers out there who are non-gamers, here are the relevant facts you need to know:
  • Game development company Harmonix is founded in 1995 and goes on to produce several well-regarded games in what is known as the "rhythm genre" - basically, the player mashes buttons on a controller in time to some game with a musical component. They develop titles such as PaRappa the Rapper, Dance Dance Revolution, FreQuency, Amplitude, and my personal favorite Karaoke Revolution.
  • These early games are popular in Japan and find a niche market here in the US, but are not completely break out games, in that many mainstream gamers avoid them.
  • Peripheral developer Red Octane then came to Harmonix and said (I'm paraphrasing here) "If you can make a kick ass rhythm game, we'll make a kick ass controller to go with it." Hence, Guitar Hero is born in 2005 for the PS2. Unlike previous rhythm games, this one actually is a hit with hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike, tapping into our secret desire to emulate rock stardom by wielding a plastic guitar and pretending we're the lead guitarist for AC/DC.
  • Harmonix and Red Octane then release Guitar Hero 2, which is another huge success, and expands to support the Xbox360 platform as well, giving the company its first chance to release song packs (a huge innovation that will lead to millions of dollars in sales for Rock Band) via the Xbox Live marketplace.
  • Harmonix then is acquired by MTV Games, and they sell the Guitar Hero franchise to Activision.
  • In October 2007, Activision teams with developer Neversoft to release Guitar Hero 3. GH3 is a huge commercial success, though complaints about the changes to game play do start to surface. Nonetheless, the Guitar Hero franchise still sells like hot cakes (best selling game of the year), and the new wireless controller is a welcome upgrade.
  • Meanwhile, with the pile of money Harmonix got from the sale of GH, they go on to the next logical step in rhythm music simulators and release the innovative and awesome Rock Band, adding a drum and microphone to the mix. Rock Band is released in November of 2007, to widespread commercial and critical success. The game garners several game of the year awards, and rightfully so. The business model of releasing weekly song packs (containing between 3-5 songs) at $5 a pop is a wild success. RB sells over 28 million songs via the online marketplace.
  • A full year later, Activision releases its own version of a band simulator dubbed Guitar Hero: World Tour, which has a microphone and drum kit to go along with a guitar. While the controllers are of higher quality overall, the gameplay still pales in comparison with Rock Band and Rock Band 2 (released the same year as GH:WT).
Now, looking at that timeline, it's a bit perposterous to suggest that HARMONIX is the villian in this situation and that ACTIVISION is the party who had their Intellectual Property somehow ripped off as the reporter suggests. If anyone deserves the "shameless knockoff" slur, it's Activision with their Guitar Hero: World Tour game.

This is the sort of shoddy mainstream journalism that so infuriates gamers. I mean, if you don't know shit about the subject material you're touching on, either do some damn basic research, or just don't bother writing about it at all. The information above was easily found after 5 minutes of searching on Wikipedia. And we're not talking in-depth game knowledge here - just a basic glance at the facts and timeline above tells you all you need to know.

Shame on Forbes for publishing this poor excuse for an article. Fact check next time, motherfuckers!

Edited to add: If you want to know why Bobby Kotick is bad for the gaming industry, read this excellent op-ed over at Ars Technica.
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On 10:54 PM , Brownie said...

Way to open the can of Whoop-Ass! As a gamer, this news hurts the heart. KoDick you suck!