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Activision's Kotick Speaks on Vivendi Merger, Guitar Hero

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick spoke at the D: All Things Digital Conference today, presenting Guitar Hero: World Tour and painting his company's upcoming merger with Vivendi as the best way for his company to reach new types of gaming markets - full
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick spoke at The Wall Street Journal's ongoing D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, California, largely to present Neversoft's recently-announced Guitar Hero: World Tour, and Gamasutra has full highlights of his speech. Activision Blizzard Kotick also addressed the upcoming merger between his company and Blizzard parent Vivendi, painting the union as being highly driven by World of Warcraft. He indicated that the merger represents the most effective way to invest Activision into the MMO segment. Said the exec, "We kept looking at it, and realizing that even if we put hundreds of millions of dollars of capital towards it, and had the very best intellectual property, we still would very likely be unsuccessful. So the merger was really our mechanism to get access to Blizzard's talent, Blizzard's capability, their infrastructure, from the multiplayer matchup standpoint, from a multiplayer gaming standpoint, but also in areas we would never have had an opportunity to participate." Kotick declined to comment on a potential Take-Two acquisition by major Activision rival Electronic Arts. Guitar Hero: World Tour To promote Guitar Hero: World Tour, the game was demonstrated on stage by several gamers including skateboarder (and Activision licensor) Tony Hawk. Kotick introduced the title as "the first time you'll have multiple instruments - drums, mic, a bass, different guitar." Conference host Kara Swisher then interjected, "That's called Rock Band, I think," to which Kotick replied, "We're calling it Guitar Hero: World Tour." In addition to the new instruments, World Tour will include a feature allowing players to record their own tracks and upload them to the internet for other players to download. The Console Landscape Kotick had positive words for all three current-generation consoles, singling out a major strength for each. He praised PlayStation 3's graphical capabilities, saying the system "has the ability to generate real time rendered graphics that are feature film quality - up until now, video games have looked like bad UHF television." Xbox 360 was praised for its strong online and social features: "Whether it's voice-over-IP, or integrated instant messaging, or text messaging, there are now mechanisms for players to communicate with their friends. This social element has really transformed the experience." As for the Wii, he cited its physically engaging nature, using that angle to segue into how Guitar Hero draws from all three consoles' strengths. "The interesting thing about Guitar Hero is it's really the intersection of all of the things we just talked about, because it has high production value, it is a platform for downloading music... That physical interface, though, is creating a different experience." Despite his encouraging words about current gaming hardware, Kotick was clear about his company's position in the industry. "We're competing against Microsoft, and Sony, and Nintendo," he said, "and as much as they say they're our partners, they're our competitors, and they definitely keep us on our toes." He also had choice words for one of Nintendo's newest releases: "By the way, when you're promoting a Twinkie-focused lifestyle, Wii Fit is not really in keeping with the tradition of video games."

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