Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, tells me that "DJ Hero" won't just change his company's business, but will change the world.
Hyperbole? Of course. He's trying to make the point that now music games are accessible to anyone who likes any type of music. You don't have to be an expert gamer; Kotick says the "DJ Hero" turntable is accessible and intuitive. When the game goes on sale at 12:01 Tuesday morning the company is hoping a whole different type of consumer will line up to buy the new game. The "DJ Hero" package of a controller-turntable and game with a lineup of hip-hop, dance and pop music, is designed to appeal to all those music fans that aren't into the rock music and guitar controllers of the previous "Hero" games.
This game sticks out from Activision Blizzard's "Hero" predecessors not just because the *type* of music is different, but also because there's just *so* much music. The game features over 100 songs, more than any previous hero title, as well as 93 "mixes" of hip-hop, dance, and pop.
But not only has the downturn in consumer spending hurt video game sales as a whole, but the genre of music games is particularly suffering, and Activision faces newly strong competition. In September The Beatles trounced Guitar Hero 5: Rock Band from MTV Games and Electronic Arts. And while video game console sales were fairly strong in September, sales of the software were disappointing, especially considering the number of big game releases, including "Beatles: Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero 5." Game sales in the U.S. grew five percent compared to the 15 percent analysts were expecting.
Kotick tells me he's not too concerned about those September numbers, saying he expects to see spending return in mid-November and December.
He says he anticipates spending habits to change because of tighter purse strings, for example, consumers will buy presents right before it's time to give a gift, instead of planning too far in advance. Still, there's no doubt that comparisons with last year's stellar sales of the Guitar Hero game will be incredibly tough. Kotick defends Activision/Blizzard's business as international and diverse -- and new "Hero" games create diversity within the genre. But even he acknowledges that if consumer spending *doesn't* come back this holiday season, and then they'll really have to be concerned.
At the end of the day "DJ Hero" won't be all that important to Activision Blizzard's bottom line. The company's biggest game this fall and winter is expected to be "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2." In fact, Pacific Crest analyst Evan Wilson tells me he expects "Modern Warfare 2" to sell 12.5 million units, compared to the just two million units he expects "DJ Hero" to sell. But the fact that there are four new "Hero" games this fall, the most it's ever released in a short time period, indicates the importance of the franchise as a whole.
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