Music games, led by Activision’s “Guitar Hero” and MTV’s “Rock Band,” have been huge in recent years. So it’s easy to see why former Yahoo (YHOO) COO Dan Rosensweig would want to head up the “Guitar Hero” franchise for Activision (ATVI).
But has the trend peaked? While video game sales grew 9% year-over-year in February, music game sales were down 34% year-over-year, similar to January’s 33% year-over-year decline, according to retail research firm NPD Group. (Via a report by Goldman’s Mark Wienkes.)
“Guitar Hero” is at least doing better than its rival — it outsold “Rock Band” 2-to-1 in February. “Guitar Hero” revenue fell 17% year-over-year in February, while “Rock Band” dropped 58% year-over-year.
Still, Rosensweig’s job is to get that business growing again. So he will have to hope that people are still interested in shelling out for new music games.
So what’s the plan? We haven’t heard from Rosensweig yet, but Activision has sketched out some plans. Most recently, Activision Publishing CEO Mark Griffith said on the company’s Q4 earnings call that it’s planning to “launch a major restage of the business with all new differentiated ‘Guitar Hero’ products.”
That involves making almost twice as many music games this year as last year, including “DJ Hero” and a Metallica version of “Guitar Hero.” (Meanwhile, a Beatles version of “Rock Band” is scheduled to go on sale in September.)
One place Rosensweig may want to look for growth: Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, where the “Guitar Hero”-like “Tap Tap Revenge” franchise has been a huge hit. Tapulous’ “Tap Tap Revenge 2” recently spent more than a week as the iPhone’s most-downloaded game.
Two new iPhone features, announced last week and coming this summer, could help “Guitar Hero” make the jump: A new in-game transaction service means iPhone owners could potentially buy add-on tracks to play along with — a big part of music games’ revenue models. And new options for accessory makers means Activision could even potentially sell a small plastic guitar to go along with the game if it wanted to.