Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard CEO and one of the more quotable executives in the gaming industry, is always coming up with new ways to sell consumers a plastic guitar. Plastic guitars have been very good to Activision in the past five years.
So good, in fact, that the “Guitar Hero” franchise almost single handedly made Activision the most successful game publisher on the planet. With sales on the decline, it’s high time they spice up the line to keep it profitable. Branching out with “DJ Hero”’s a start. The next step is cutting out those pesky console holders and their licensing fees.
In a Q&A session at the Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference, Kottick said that Activision is now exploring the option of selling “Guitar” and “Band Hero”, as well as other game types like “Tony Hawk’s Ride”, as plug-in-and-play products, free of console manufacturers Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.
Kottick said, "I think what the untethered ‘Guitar Hero’ does is it maybe equals the playing field a little bit more and gives you leverage with first parties on downloadable content and the business model… You should expect to see many of our products to be playable on the television independent of a console."
It’s inevitable that consumers are going to have to buy yet another set of plastic instruments at some point. While the current console cycle is only reaching the halfway point, home gaming technology will change over the next few years no matter what. That doesn’t mean, however, that the public is willing to continue paying premium prices for replacement products.
Activision Blizzard will also have to determine in the next five years if they think consumers will be willing to buy devices separate from their consoles. One of the Wii’s major accomplishments has been getting the gaming console in more households than ever before, normalizing that technology for most families. Will they be willing to buy a plastic instrument that goes in their cable box when they most likely already have one that plugs in to their Wii or even their Wii 2? Will peripheral-dependent games still be a serious draw in 2015?