Q&A: RedOctane's Dusty Welch

Head of publishing for Guitar Hero outfit talks about the switch to Neversoft, says original game's songs likely to be made available on Xbox 360.


Guitar Hero news has been all the rage this week, with the revelation that development duties on the next installment in the series have been turned over to Neversoft, followed by the discovery of trademark applications for Guitar Villain and Drum Villain.

So in true Guitar Hero fashion, RedOctane's head of publishing Dusty Welch is providing GameSpot with a week-capping encore in the form of a brief interview on what the Neversoft move means for the series and where RedOctane plans to take the series in the future. Welch was tight-lipped about details on the next game, but he did address some of the most pressing concerns of the series' fans, including the use of original recordings instead of covers, and whether or not Xbox 360 owners will ever be able to play the first game's songs on the system.

GameSpot: Why Neversoft? What does it bring to the table for Guitar Hero?

Dusty Welch: Neversoft's extensive resume of successfully developing blockbuster franchises speaks for itself. Sales of the Tony Hawk franchise exceed more than $1 billion worldwide. With such an amazing track record, we're confident that their team of passionate developers will take Guitar Hero to another level in terms of the overall gameplay experience.

GS: Is Neversoft developing the entire Guitar Hero franchise and all its spin-offs now?

DW: We are not yet ready to announce our plans for upcoming Guitar Hero games. What we've seen thus far regarding Neversoft's capabilities for the franchise is extremely compelling. We're very excited to work with their development team and have full confidence in their ability to bring the Guitar Hero franchise to even greater heights.

GS: What will change with the franchise now that a different team of developers is at the helm?

DW: We can reassure our fans that the core gameplay experience will definitely not change with future iterations of Guitar Hero, as it will always be about fulfilling the fantasy of becoming a rock god! If anything, the overall experience will grow and become even more fun. We have always been fully dedicated to giving the audience exactly what they want and creating the most compelling gaming experience for our fans.

GS: Why isn't Harmonix still developing the Guitar Hero franchise? How much of it is due to Harmonix being bought by MTV?

DW: We have tremendous respect for, and greatly appreciate, everything that Harmonix has done for the Guitar Hero franchise. Their vision has always aligned with ours from the start. In looking toward the future, we believe it was a natural and neutral decision for us to look at other opportunities. We look forward to partnering with Neversoft's development team and can't wait to show our fans what we have in store for them.

GS: How much creative input did Harmonix have in the direction of the first two Guitar Hero games?

DW: Harmonix had a lot of creative input into both iterations of Guitar Hero, though the bottom line is it's all about creating a phenomenal gameplay experience with rocking music that delivers the feeling of being a true rock star!

GS: Has the success of the franchise made it easier or harder (both in negotiations and cost of licensing) to get the rights to popular songs?

DW: Certainly, when you have such a mass-market title that transcends demographics, more and more people are going to hear about it. The word-of-mouth buzz has been incredible, and now you consistently read stories of high-profile celebrities from sports stars to real-life rock gods playing Guitar Hero. Today, we have music labels and artists that want to work with us.

GS: Can we expect the proportion of songs by the original artists in relation to cover versions by sound-alikes to change much in future Guitar Hero games?

DW: As Guitar Hero becomes increasingly integrated into the mass market, definitely more original artists and bands will be receptive of having their music in the game. We are considering that option for future titles.

GS: Will Xbox 360 Guitar Hero II owners ever have access to the songs from the original Guitar Hero?

DW: While the songs that will be available for download through the Xbox Live Marketplace have yet to be confirmed, we can assure our fans that they can likely expect to see these songs. Through the feedback we've received from fans and from reading the message boards and other forums, we know that this is what everyone wants because of the awesome set list from some of the most legendary rock bands and artists ever!

GS: We've seen trademark applications filed for Guitar Villain, Drum Villain, Drum Hero, Band Hero, and Keyboard Hero. When are we going to start seeing the series branch out into new areas?

DW: We have lots of ideas as to what direction we would like to take in the future, though nothing has been confirmed or finalized as of yet. We are making a concerted effort to take a look at every potential opportunity and will eventually decide at a certain point which effort will be best for both our fans and for RedOctane and Activision.

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