As CEO of Ac­tivi­sion Pub­lish­ing, Eric Hir­sh­berg is in charge of the com­pany’s soft­ware strat­egy, though he wasn’t around for what he de­scribes as Gui­tar Hero’s “over-pub­lish­ing”; he only joined the com­pany a few weeks be­fore the re­lease of World Tour in 2010. Here, he dis­cusses the busi­ness de­ci­sions that led to

Gui­tar Hero Live’s cre­ation, and why this huge multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion still be­lieves in fos­ter­ing an indie spirit.

Did you al­ways plan to bring Gui­tar Hero back in 2015?

It wasn’t time-based. We made a prom­ise to our­selves that we wouldn’t bring it back un­less we had a break­through cre­ative in­no­va­tion that was be­fit­ting of the fran­chise, and that we felt could re­ju­ve­nate in­ter­est in the [mu­sic] cat­e­gory. We re­ally were driven by more of a cre­ative North Star than a cal­en­dar.

What con­vinced you that Freestyle was the right stu­dio for the job?

I was, and re­main, a big fan of the Freestyle team. They had so much en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity around rhythm-based games. The DJ Hero games were re­ally well done, re­ally in­no­va­tive. There was no ques­tion in my mind about who I wanted to in­vest in and work with on a pos­si­ble rein­ven­tion of Gui­tar Hero. It was Freestyle from the very be­gin­ning.

Freestyle praises your hands-off ap­proach with your stu­dios. How im­por­tant is that to Ac­tivi­sion?

We choose to cham­pion an in­de­pen­dent spirit for a rea­son: we be­lieve it leads to the best cre­ative prod­ucts. Our stu­dios don’t just plug into a top-down set of man­dates from a tech­nol­ogy or process stand­point. Freestyle is a great de­vel­oper, and we ab­so­lutely want to pro­vide them with the re­sources and the room they need to do their best work. That said, there’s a lot of healthy back and forth – there’s mu­tual re­spect on both sides, and each time we go through the process, the games hope­fully get bet­ter and bet­ter.

What’s the strat­egy for Gui­tar Hero af­ter Live’s re­lease? You must have learned from the past that you can only put out so many new discs and in­stru­ments.

Yes, and I think GHTV is a very el­e­gant so­lu­tion to that. It al­lows us to keep the uni­verse con­stantly updating, so there can be some­thing new, po­ten­tially, ev­ery time you turn it on. A lot’s changed in both gam­ing and mu­sic since the last

Gui­tar Hero. The ex­pec­ta­tion that your mu­sic uni­verse is go­ing to be con­stantly updating and con­stantly al­low [the player] to dis­cover new things is sort of the cost of en­try now. It means we can bring new things to the au­di­ence with­out print­ing new discs.

Gui­tar Hero Live isn’t the only in­stru­ment-driven mu­sic game due out in 2015. Is Rock Band’s re­turn good news for you, or bad?

I would say com­pe­ti­tion’s in­evitable. We tend not to fo­cus on it. We have com­pe­ti­tion in ev­ery cat­e­gory that we make games in. We’ve al­ways fo­cused on the same thing, which is mak­ing the best game we can. I know that sounds like a pack­aged an­swer, but it’s re­ally the truth; you can’t do any­thing about your com­pe­ti­tion, but you can con­trol what you’re do­ing. That’s al­ways been our best de­fence – a good of­fence of do­ing in­ter­est­ing, cre­ative things that gamers ap­pre­ci­ate. I think that’s what we’ve done here.


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