This week, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman announced better-than-expected sales of The Beatles: Rock Band, developed by his company's MTV Games subsidiary Harmonix. Within 24 hours, the CEO and president of Activision's Guitar Hero label hit back, boasting that the latest installment in the series was trouncing its band-specific competitor.
Former Yahoo! COO Dan Rosensweig, who took over the Guitar Hero business from RedOctane founder Charles Huang in March, told the Financial Times that The Beatles: Rock Band hasn't dented Guitar Hero 5's retail performance. "It did not affect our sales," he said of the rival game, which launched the week after Activision's own Neversoft-developed title. Guitar Hero 5's fortunes also appear to be unaffected by its controversial use of the likeness of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
But while Guitar Hero 5 and The Beatles: Rock Band have both received solid marks from critics, Rosensweig claims the former is outselling the latter 4-to-1 in the US. He went on to tell the British business daily that in "other markets," the ratio was 9-to-1 in favor of Guitar Hero 5, which also allows buyers to get Guitar Hero: Van Halen for free in December.
Rosensweig's comments come after a year that has seen the once-hot music genre cool down. Earlier this month, the NPD Group analyst Anita Frazer said rhythm game sales were down 46 percent year-to-date in 2009. However, the slump hasn't dented the braggadocio of Activision executives. During a presentation this week, CEO Bobby Kotick announced that his company was working on versions of Guitar Hero that would bypass consoles altogether.