The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


Guitar intrigue

So one of the big dramatic points on the interwebs these days is that Guitar Hero guitars and Rock Band guitars aren’t interchangable – guitars made for one game don’t work with the other game. According to Harmonix, they’re all gung-ho for an open guitar standard, and it’s Activision being the bad guy and refusing. Of course, the internet is a bunch of idiots, and they jump all over anything that makes those Big Faceless Corporations look as evil as Noam Chomsky says they are. Now, I mean, I’m no big Activision apologist, but can’t anybody come up with any way this could have played out other than "the Big Corporation tries to crush the Small Mom-And-Pop Outfit?"

For example, consider this. If guitars are freely compatible, this encourages people who already have Rock Band to get the game-only version of Guitar Hero, yes? That makes sense. It does not, however, work in reverse: people who already have Guitar Hero will probably still buy the Rock Band bundle, and people who presently own neither will be inclined to buy the Rock Band bundle and the game-only Guitar Hero. Why? Because Guitar Hero (rather sensibly) doesn’t come with drums or a microphone, and they’re sort of integral to the Rock Band experience. Looking at it this way, it seems like Activision is the clear loser in the interoperability game – if Harmonix’s controllers work with Guitar Hero, Activision can expect to lose money, whereas Harmonix should not.

Now, looking at it this way puts a different cast to things; Activision is no longer quite such a cut-and-dried Evil Personage. Now imagine the conversation played out like this:

Harmonix: Hey, all of our guitar controllers should be compatible.
Activision: We’re positioned to take a loss if that happens. How are you going to make this worth our while?

Now, I’m not saying it did come down that way. I’m not even saying I’m right about the economic assumptions behind this. And I’m not saying Activision is great and Harmonix sucks. I’m just saying that maybe the intertwits would do well to think critically instead of just assuming that the Little Guy is just acting out of pure altruism and the Big Guy is acting out of greed and malice. It’s not necessarily true that Activision Blizzard hates Rock Band and horde.

Oh, and since when does Harmonix count as the Little Guy anyhow? Last time I checked, Viacom – the parent company of MTV games / Harmonix – wasn’t exactly a small-time outfit. In fact, Viacom’s one of the main companies trying to shut down darling-of-the-young-left YouTube. So stick that in your Chomsky and spin on it.

January 26th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments