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Guitar Villain December 20, 2007

Posted by Mike in Articles, Console, Games, News.
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Ever heard the old saying, “Power corrupts”?  Of course you have, and unfortunately the latest example is gaming giant Activision, which is still resisting calls from consumers asking them to allow Guitar Hero 3 controllers to be made compatible with the PS3 version of EA’s Rock Band game.

Harmonix – the developers of Rock Band – has developed a patch to allow this compatibility, but Activision quickly spat out their dummy and point-blank refused to allow it to be uploaded.

Talking to the Boston Globe newspaper, Activision spokesperson Maryanne Lataif was unrepentant:  “Unfortunately for Rock Band users, Harmonix has been unwilling to discuss an agreement that will allow us to provide that option in a manner that maintains the high standards people have come to expect from Activision.  We believe we should be compensated for the use of our technology.”

Activision’s stance – driven by a misguided belief that they should be entitled to monetary compensation for simple controller compatibility, allied to an underlying wish for consumers not to buy the rival game at all – has seriously frustrated Rock Band developers Harmonix, not to mention the owners of the highly-rated title.  Most annoyingly for PS3 owners, the Xbox 360 version is already compatible, due to the standard requirements necessary to produce third-party peripherals for that console.

Harmonix themselves have this to say on the matter: “We are really and truly not looking at this from the financial standpoint.  We are looking at this from the consumer standpoint.”

Ironically many people had bought Guitar Hero 3 primarily to get their hands on the wireless controller to later use in Rock Band – and in future many will buy Activision’s stand-alone guitars for the same purpose – and for Activision to blame Harmonix for the present incompatibility situation is more than a little rich.

Of particular target for scorn should be the quote above that refers to standards.  How on Earth is making a controller (one that Harmonix themselves were originally heavily involved with in their Guitar Hero days) compatible with PS3 – when it is Harmonix themselves writing the patch – going to result in less than “high standards”? Does Activision think that the orange button is suddenly going to control the red one onscreen or something?  The statement is utterly ludicrous, not to mention highly disingenuous.

By their current actions, Activision is effectively biting off the hand that feeds them, and more than one videogame company down the years has gone on to seriously regret angering their customers by being so insensitive to them.  Regret where it matters most to them… in the pocket.

This sheer bloody-mindedness and greed should not be tolerated.  Sony has stayed out of the dispute thus far, urging both parties to come to an agreement as soon as possible, but perhaps it is time they stuck their oar in and stood up for the consumer.  This situation is wrong and it must be resolved immediately, with Activision allowing the Rock Band patch to go ahead for the sake of customers.

Producing a Guitar Hero sequel better than Rock Band would be an ideal way for Activision to ensure that their dominance of the music genre is maintained – not this grubby, cynical fit of pique that is harming their reputation.

It is rare that a dispute is so black and white, but in this case we can call it: Activision has gone from Guitar Hero to Guitar Villain.  In this panto season, that’s more than enough for a bit of booing and hissing, wouldn’t you say?

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