Activision Say Love Signed the Rights to Cobain Herself

September 12, 2009 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox

Nirvana story

In a statement issued by Activision to Kotaku, they claimed that they had all the appropriate rights to use Kurt Cobain as a playable character in Guitar Hero 5.
This is what the statement said:

“Guitar Hero secured the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love to use Kurt Cobain’s likeness as a fully playable character in Guitar Hero 5.”

Just a couple of days ago Courtney Love was seemingly fuming about Cobain being used in the game, threatening to “sue the s**t out of Activision”.

Given Courtney Love’s history I am obliged to believe Activision. I can’t really see that they would have used his likeness without any permission at all. I wouldn’t put it past her just doing it for some attention…

GH5 in Not a Lott of controversy shocker

September 11, 2009 by Rob Knight  
Filed under News, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox

GH5 605

Shortly after 11am this morning in London’s Oxford Street, Britain’s own Pixie Lott was joined on stage by Inside Xbox’s SuperKaylo (on drums) and Eurogamer’s Johnny Minkley (on vocals) as well as a lucky competition winner to officially launch Guitar Hero 5 at HMV Oxford Circus not with a rendition of a Nirvana track unsurprisingly but Song 2 by Blur.

This kicked off the UK attempt to land the Guinness World Record for the largest number of participants in a single Guitar Hero session over a 24 hour period.  In addition to the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain & Holland are vying for the record (at the time of writing we are being beaten by Italy)

We were there a little later and caught the above photo of the latest participants – Pure ROCK (Oh, wrong game)

If you want to preserve our British Guitar Hero pride make sure you visit before 11am tomorrow when the attempt finishes.

Stars support Love as Guitar Hero rage continues

September 11, 2009 by Daniel Gillespie  
Filed under News

Nirvana story

Yesterday, we reported that Courtney Love, former wife of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, was suing Activision for the appearance of the musician in Guitar Hero 5.

But there have been some radical new developments today, with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Cobain’s Nirvana bandmates, adding to Love’s accusations.

In a joint statement, the pair stated:

We want people to know that we are dismayed and very disappointed in the way a facsimile of Kurt is used in the Guitar Hero game.

While we were aware of Kurt’s image being used with two Nirvana songs, we didn’t know players have the ability to unlock the character. This feature allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in “re-locking” Kurt’s character so that this won’t continue in the future.

It’s hard to watch an image of Kurt pantomiming other artists’ music alongside cartoon characters.

With the game being released in Europe today, expect this one to run, folks.

Courtney Love sues Activision over Kurt Cobain image

September 10, 2009 by Daniel Gillespie  
Filed under News

Nirvana story

A few weeks ago, Activision announced that former Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would appear in Guitar Hero 5, which is on sale tomorrow (11/09/09).

But Courtney Love, Cobain’s former wife and owner of a lot of Cobain’s material, has posted several angry rants on Twitter today, one of which included:

For the record this Guitar Hero sh*t is breach of contract on a Bullys part and there will be a proper addressing of this and retraction.

The extent of the rant has yet to be explained, but a monetary issue is most likely the problem. Although, it is Courtney Love, so we could be here until Guitar Hero 6 guessing what the problem could be.

Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd Legends Against Music Games

September 8, 2009 by Andy Giff  
Filed under News, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox

Former Rolling Stones Guitarist Bill Wyman and Pink Floyd Legend Nick Mason are against music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band

Former Rolling Stones Guitarist Bill Wyman and Pink Floyd Legend Nick Mason are against music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band

Bill Wyman, guitarist for the Rolling Stones from 1962-1992, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason have both said that they are against music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

72 year-old Wyman said:

“It encourages kids not to learn, that’s the trouble. It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument. I think is a pity so I’m not really keen on that kind of stuff.”

Mason had similar thoughts:

“It irritates me having watched my kids do it – if they spent as much time practising the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they’d be damn good by now.”

Personally I think that this kind of opinion is very narrow-minded. I play the guitar myself, but I do enjoy playing Guitar Hero every so often, and I am eagerly anticipating The Beatles Rock Band. The two things are separate in my mind as I have been able to play my instrument for a while now. However, I can see the other side of it where the games introduce people to music that they otherwise may never have heard and gets them interested in picking up a real instrument.

I just believe that people who think like Wyman and Mason are not looking at it with an open mind…

Activision and the Rising Price of Retail Games

September 1, 2009 by Alex Beech  
Filed under Articles

Bobby Kotick is an interesting chap isn’t he? CEO of arguable the most software publisher in the world overseeing games like Modern Warfare, Guitar Hero and now even World of Warcraft. It is no wonder the guy pulled in fifteen million dollars last year, doing is doing a simply fantastic job looking after his investor’s interests. It seems that his is a virtuoso of gaming business, but perhaps someone needs help him with his PR now and then.

During recent question and answers session between analyst Tony Gikas and Activition Blizzard’s executives holiday releases Kotick chipped in with a single glib comment. It was this one sentence that caught the Internets collective eye. On a question regarded the pricing of their festive line-up in light of the premium being placed on Modern Warfare 2 and the bump associated with all their other plastic paraphernalia based games Kotick felt the need to contribute to Publishing head Michael Griffith’s response, with this little nugget “…you know if it was left to me, I would raise the prices even further.” You have to wonder if he knew someone was recording the session, right?

Everyone went crazy. Part of their reaction was tied to the fact that it would hit their wallets directly. At a time when many are struggling to make ends meet and trying to manage their holiday budget to include a new piece of over-priced plastic gaming paraphernalia Kotick`s responses seems at best seems naïve, at worst exploitative.

The strange thing is in a way Kotick is right. Development costs continue to increase as the technology improves. High definition gaming increasing art overheads, online requiring extra production time and QA costs and of course the increasing complexity companies need a way to ensure they are going to recuperate their investment. If any company is concerned their title will not make its money back unless the price point is higher then they absolutely have every reason to alter their financial model.

Unfortunately for publishers who would like to try this during the first generation of Playstation and the inception of optical media storage game prices have become more or less standardized. Gone are the days of magic SFX chips hidden in cartridges that enabled developers to charge for the physical edition to the games storage medium. Consumers seemingly only acknowledge the delivery method of their entertainment and not the development cost or quality. With the standardization of price companies could no longer form a business model that could accommodate niche games for a smaller audience by altering the price accordingly.

This system though, of standardized price regardless of quality, rewards rehashing ideas and recycling assets. Some companies of course strive for innovation, but many have failed, as their game either didn’t have the brand recognition of their franchised brethren or the advertising budget of a big company.

The EAs and Activisions churned out sequel after iterative sequel, it was only recently that more involved gamers started to beg for innovation. But any innovation is a gamble, especially for a publicly traded company. Kodick even spoke to this fact saying ‘A small segment of very vocal gamers say everything has to be new and different every year. Actually, people are happy with existing franchises, provided you innovate within them.’ While this is the response of a CEO concerned only with the money and not the art of gaming, it does hold a grain of truth. Small new intellectual properties frequently struggle to be noticed, even if they are of a comparable quality to an established product. Thus if you remove all of Kodick’s comment from him and instead impose them on a smaller struggling developer, or even a publisher that is willing to back innovative projects they seem more reasonable.

Look to a game like Mirror’s Edge. While it was a game which was admired for what it attempted it was undeniably flawed and failed to capture the attention of many other titles in the same period, limiting sales and profit for EA. Many players of the original though would like to see a sequel to see if developers Dice could reach the potential the game displayed. In the current market with new top tier titles unable to break from the established pricing structure their hands are seemingly tied. Without the ability to form a price model that could accommodate the games development by increasing the price for early adopters, but supporting them later in the games life cycle with promises of free additional content where late comers would have to pay.

Some of Activision`s current Holiday season line up do actually appear to be experimenting with this model. Though much of the increased pricing is hidden in the plastic extras required to play the games. Tony Hawk: Ride and the new skateboard peripheral will retail at $120 in America. While some of that $60 represents the cost of the board and its development, much of it also represents the risk they see in it. With the weight of advertising and the Tony Hawk brand behind it the chances of it failing are slim, but the increased price of the bundle means that they are going to have to sell far fewer units to start turning a profit.

Profit is of course the sticking point. The cry goes up that it is about making back the money for development but it doesn’t seem like something Activision really has to worry about. Their titles are franchised, they have savvy marketing teams and the budget to ensure that their titles will be recognized by every mother entering a store come October. Even in the unlikely event of one of their products selling absolutely zero units, the rest of their releases would at least ensure that they don’t loose money. But they are a business and they want to make as much money as the market will bear. Many regions have to suffer a price bump in Modern Warfare 2. The stated reason for this is the cost of development, but is that a fair explanation when you know sales are going to be enough to completely cover the development? I don’t feel so.

There is a case of course for developers using the big budget titles to support smaller niche products. While no company is going to make a game they know is going to fail, they are more likely to take risks or invest in a lower profit venture if they have their metaphorical backs covered by a sure fire hit. When companies state this as a reason for their pricing however they become accountable. They have to produce something original and inventive if they don’t want to lose their public support. Unfortunately few companies seem likely to make this promise to their customers in the current market on products which are so expensive and time consuming to create.

We need to realize as consumers that with the current technology we play on in the present financial climate we may have to start buying things for more than we are currently comfortable with if we want the quality to be maintained. But not everything, companies should be free to price as they see fit according to their projected sales to development cost. Of course some degree of profit should be built in but when a company is seen to be deliberately price-gouging products they know will be a financial success that is when it is time to put your foot down.

Perhaps the only real problem with Kotick`s statement is that it is unpalatable coming from a man who can afford to buy 116,667 copies of Tony Hawk: Ride, and still have a million dollars pocket money and from the richest company in the industry. You have a right to be mad at the man especially if you are buying `his` games this Christmas, but you also have to accept that the essence of what he says is true.

Written by: Alex Beech