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How much of Guitar Hero's heritage comes from earlier games like Dance Dance Revolution?
Welch: Certainly, I think games like Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, Donkey Konga, and a few others really paved the way. Guitar Hero started out really as an opportunity to play that perfect marriage between the hardware and the software. On the software side, it was about that promise that you deliver of being the musician--in this case the lead guitarist--or about really becoming a rock star, and I think that fantasy is primal.
It has been heightened in the last five years by the popularity of iPod and iTunes, getting your music anywhere, anytime, any way you wanted, and it is important that music and your participation as a fan can play in that interaction.
What does it mean for the market that there is both Guitar Hero and Harmonix's Rock Band now?
Welch: I think it speaks volumes in terms of the interest that consumers have in music-based gaming. And certainly success breeds competition. I believe that there is room in the space for multiple products to exist. As I've said, Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, those products existed in the marketplace before Guitar Hero. But the Guitar Hero franchise now has much greater than an 80 percent market share, so competition has existed, and competition will continue to come out, but we are very confident that a franchise like Guitar Hero will continue to dominate the music space.
How will you win over fans who see Harmonix as the authentic developer and want to stick with them by buying Rock Band?
Welch: Consumers are really looking for this perfect marriage between the hardware and the software, and I think that's really a unique competitive advantage that Activision has. I think Activision and RedOctane have really proven and demonstrated that we have a tremendous advantage in this area, as RedOctane pioneered the hardware, but we also have tremendous expertise built up over the last several years in our manufacturing capabilities.
What's in store for the Guitar Hero franchise?
Welch: Well, I wish I could divulge all those plans, but I can't. But I will say that we are actively engaged in dialoguing with the audience, both today's current consumer and tomorrow's future consumer who could be anywhere from age 8 all the way up to the end of the scale, male, female, in every walk of life, in every territory in the world. And where there is music, there is Guitar Hero and there are very unique opportunities on multiple levels to engage this franchise with consumers.
Will there be any kind of user-generated content element, where maybe users can upload their own music, or something like that?
Welch: I am not aware of that opportunity today. I think that's an interesting concept. I think that there is probably some legal challenges that have to get resolved if you are talking about using master tracks or music that you own at home, but I think that ultimately, probably there is some type of user involvement from the community.
I think we are starting to see the tip of that now by building out a community involvement site that goes beyond blogging and talking and putting information together. It will really allow the audience for Guitar Hero III to have a good experience in the game, to go online for tournaments, to understand their ranking in a leader board, form up teams through the leaderboard and then go and engage and play each other. I think that is a natural progression and a leadership position that the Guitar Hero franchise is bringing to bear that is allowing users to really participate in the experience and help them to find the experience.
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