On January 16, Neversoft, the video-game developers known primarily for the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise, posted a job opening for work on their latest project, Guitar Hero III, thereby inciting a stir in the video-game blogosphere. Local house Harmonix developed the first two games in the Guitar Hero (GH) rhythmic-simulator series. So the switch to a different developer seems curious, given that GH has become a hit: it’s even had a cameo on at least one network television show (Veronica Mars) and was blamed for at least one pro athlete’s injury (Detroit Tiger Joel Zumaya’s wrist inflammation). Why would those involved mess with success?
It probably has something to do with this: in 2006, GH’s publisher, Red Octane, was bought by Activision, the same parent company as Neversoft, and Harmonix was purchased by MTV. While he acknowledged that the companies’ new ownership situations led to “a natural and mutual decision to explore new opportunities,” Bryan Lam, Red Octane’s PR specialist, says the move extends beyond simple corporate synergy.
“We have only reached the tip of the iceberg of where Guitar Hero can go,” Lam told the Phoenix via e-mail. “Neversoft’s depth of experience developing other blockbuster titles will help lead us towards even greater success.” Moreover, Lam points out that Neversoft’s “larger team and diverse group developers will provide for even more creative awareness and increased feature-laden efforts.” (Harmonix declined to comment for this story.)
For those GH fans who are concerned that Neversoft will take their beloved game and turn it into something decidedly less rockin’, Lam had this to say: “[I]f you’ve ever played a Tony Hawk game, you’ll notice the music is just as immersive as the game play, and their selection of tracks and target demographic align seamlessly with Guitar Hero.” But will the game continue to rock? We’ll have to wait and see.