TR: So how does it feel to have 'beaten the Beatles (Rock Band)'? That's quite a big deal. Particularly in Britain!
DR: Well, as we were saying internally, we were very confident that the 'Fab Five' [Guitar Hero 5] would beat the Fab Four!
The reason we felt that level of confidence is not because the Beatles aren't great, because they are great. I'm a huge Beatles fan and, in fact, I recently went out and bought the entire re-mastered albums on CD. But what we really focused on was giving the consumer what they wanted – which is a variety of music, 82 artists and 85 songs, instead of one band. Music that was really focused around the guitar. Whereas the Beatles' music is focused around all of the instruments and harmonies. We focused on what people play the game for, which is the guitar.
And then on top of that, our studio, Neversoft, is the best in the world at creating the most fun games. And the reviews really reflect that – the innovation, the 'new-ness', the incredible set-list put together by our music department run by Tim Reilly and a team of nine people who really focused on blending the science and the art of what should be in the set-list, what would work best and what would be really popular with the consumers. And then Neversoft determines one thing: "Is it fun as hell to play?"
So when you put together all of those things, we were sure that we had a winning combination from the beginning. And we are thrilled that our fans have rewarded us with such a great success, following the Guitar Hero 5 launch.
TR: So this Christmas you have three games – Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and DJ Hero – can you tell us more about the artists' involvement in the games?
DR: Yeah, in addition to Guitar Hero 5, we have Band Hero – which is all of the instruments, based much more around current music and popular big hits of today. And it is focused much more on full band play and singing, which we think makes it much more popular with families and with women.
And then we have DJ Hero - which you've just been playing and earned three stars on (congratulations!), which is really dance and tech and pop and rock all put together. And we've been able to mix 93 mixes of really popular songs that have never been mixed together, with professional and very popular DJs that people know about. Including, very sadly, DJ AM [who recently died of an accidental overdose on 28 August this year].
So we now have a series of games that appeal to different audiences. And there are a series of artists in each of those games. Guitar Hero 5 is 82 artists and 85 songs. We have 60-odd artists in Band Hero and 65 songs. DJ Hero has 100 songs. So we have a lot of artists working with us.
In the case of DJ Hero, the big names are of course Eminem and Jay-Z. And in Europe we have David Guetta, who is an ambassador for the game. And his new music that he is recording will be available for download in the game, shortly after launch, which is really exciting for his fans. You know, we're working with lots of artists – Adam Levine, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift [in Band Hero] who's sold over ten million records in the US. We're just really excited about all of our artist relationships.
TR: One thing that is new about Guitar Hero 5 - and also with DJ Hero - is this option to leave the game running in the background. So you can just dip in and play when you like, or just enjoy the music. Which made me think about something that Charlie Brooker said recently about Guitar Hero, which was something along the lines of "this isn't even 'a game' it is just entertainment".
DR: Games are entertainment! [laughs] Like television shows are entertainment. Our game taps into competitiveness, the social nature of playing the game and watching your friends playing the game. It's fun to watch somebody play these games. It's fun to play these games. It's fun to play these games with a group of people and compete. It's fun to sing along with the games... And now you also have the opportunity to just listen to the music.
In DJ Hero we have 100 songs and 93 new mixes that haven't been heard before. Where you have Queen mixed with Daft Punk, for example! You can host a party, just playing the music. Or people can play along with the music. We just want to tap into all the social aspects of the games.