It's not a stretch to say that music games, once the go-to genre for social gaming, have been struggling over the past year.
Undisclosed sources have informed Eurogamer that, ahead of the latest batch of Activision financial reports going public, the company is conducting massive layoffs at developers, Freestyle Games and Vicarious Visions.
What this means, to put it simply, is that Guitar Hero and DJ Hero have been effectively canceled - with no studio set to carry the torch. Lately, music rhythm games have been having an extremely tough time trying to generate a profit in an over-saturated, peripheral-expensive market - and it seems several tepid flops in a row have forced Activision to make severe cuts in order to preserve the bottom line.
In December 2010, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg admitted that the market was at a precarious point:
"It's no secret that not just Guitar Hero, but also Rock Band, and the music category in general, do not have the same mass appeal today that they did a few years ago."
Despite the gloomy introduction, at that point, Hirshberg had faith that the Guitar Hero series had a great, surviving reach with gamers:
"That said, I think that we would be foolish to not try and build on the strength of the Guitar Hero brand, because as you said, it's a pretty strong brand with great recognition and great likeability, and there's a lot to work with there. I think the road to rejuvenating that category goes through innovation. The premise of Guitar Hero - that everyone has an inner rock star - it's something that we've all done forever. Some version of singing into a hairbrush, or holding a tennis racket like a guitar, or singing karaoke, or singing into the bathroom mirror - we all do that."
Reportedly, the offices of Freestyle Games have not responded to requests for comment - prompting the unfortunate likelihood that the offices are busy with pink slips.
The Guitar Hero series is a historied franchise, and brought the entire genre to new heights.
Should this rumor turn out to be true, we here at Game Rant would like to wish the producers and employees at both Vicarious Visions and Freestyle Games the best of luck. We'll keep you updated when we hear an official word from Activision.
What are your thoughts on the situation? Are you surprised at all that the developers of Guitar Hero and DJ Hero could be getting hit by massive layoffs? Do you think Activision will find a new developer for the games if this is the case?