Music tails off for Activision

During its post-fiscals conference call, Activision became the latest publisher to ring the death knell for big-bundle, hardware-based music games.

The firm will release just two console games in 2010, across 10 SKUs. Music games accounted for 25 SKUs in 2009, when it launched the likes ofGuitar Hero 5 and Guitar Hero titles for Metallica, Van Halen, Smash Hits, On Tour and Modern Hits as well as DJ Hero and Band Hero. Sales of music games were down 35 percent, despite the number of SKUs on offer.

On a brighter note, the company said it managed to tot up 60 million downloads for Guitar Hero throughout the year. But 2010 will be all about a single Guitar Hero game and a follow-up to DJ Hero, both pitched at broad audiences for the Holiday season. There will also be an iPhone music game, based on Guitar Hero. Earlier in the week, EA signaled a cooling attitude to music games which, a few years ago, roared through retail and attracted large numbers of casual consumers.

Elsewhere in the conference call, Activision-Blizzard chief Bobby Kotick, and other managers touched on various subjects of interest…

* He hinted at a possible subscription route for the company’s biggest franchises. "If you think about the success that we’ve had in other product categories on subscription, you can get a sense of the direction that we want to take that franchise," he said.

* He said that the company is taking a cautious approach to social games. "When there is an opportunity for a new platform or revenue opportunity, we always approach it with a lot of thought, and we’ve had great success in doing that. I don’t think this category is any exception. But with casual games likeFarmVilleon Facebook, the monetization opportunities are still very speculative."

* Blizzard CEO Michael Morhaime said a demo for StarCraft would be released, globally, later this month with the launch proper set for the middle of the year.

* Digital distribution should make a 20 percent gain in revenues, in 2010, according to Kotick.

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