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Activision Axes Franchises, Reveals Studios In Earnings Call

Guitar Hero is taking a break, we'll see a Spider-Man game in 2011, a new Call of Duty studio was announced, and more!

Activision just finished up with a monster of an investor conference call that had a few surprises and meaningful bits snuggled in between the hardcore financial talk. This call in particular had a lot buzz going in. Just an hour or so prior, reports were sneaking out about the publisher’s decision to can Guitar Hero and, surprisingly, True Crime: Hong Kong, which has been demoed to press several times. 

Turns out those reports were basically accurate. Here’s the run-down:

Activision has created a new wholly owned studio to focus on Call of Duty content and support what could become a pay-for subscription platform for the shooter’s robust and ever-growing community. I’m not 100-percent certain of any of this, though, due to the ridiculous amount of marketing talk. Here’s Activision CEO Bobby Kotick’s take on what Beachhead, the studio and the project, is, via Joystiq:

"Beachhead will create the best-in-class online community, exclusive content, and a suite of services to supercharge the online gaming experience like never before. The platform will support in-game integration and bring online experiences and console play together for the first time. The platform has been in development for over a year and we're very excited about the increased value we can bring to the community. We look forward to sharing more specifics on this exciting new endeavor with you in the near future." 

The Microsoft "exclusively first" window on Call of Duty: Black Ops DLC is toast on March 3, 2011. This is the date when the game's first map pack, "First Strike," will appear on PSN for an unspecified price. You can grab a first look at this particular version over at the PS blog right now.
Sales in the music genre have flatlined and, to be frank, Activision hasn’t been giving us what we’ve wanted with its most recent Guitar Hero titles, so it’s no real surprise that the publisher is giving the franchise a break. In a statement that preceded the call, Activision confirmed that it is disbanding “the Guitar Hero business unit” and no longer working on the title it had slated for 2011. 

The wording here suggests that the franchise as a whole is being put to bed for much longer than a year. It’s not easy working on a game with as many licensing hurdles as a Guitar Hero has to jump over without a dedicated business unit. We’ll have to see what’s up over time.

Also, as for DJ Hero, Activision has stated that no music games will be coming in 2011, so don’t be expecting that 3DS title anytime soon, either.


United Front Games’ True Crime installment has indeed been canned. According to Activision, part of the reasoning of this decision is “based on the desire to focus on the greatest opportunities that the company currently has to create the world’s best interactive entertainment experiences.” Read: Call of Duty. 

To be fair, TC: Hong Kong was an ambitious open-world action game filled with more than your usual Grand Theft Auto. United Front was attempting to build a game that had a little bit of everything, and the roughness around the edges as a result showed at some previous demos. 

In a statement on its Web site, the developer apologized about not being able to finish the game with Activision and said it’s setting its “creative sights on a different horizon.”   


Like Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk is getting a break in 2011. The last two games with his name on it required that lovely plastic skateboard peripheral and were massive sales flops. "We will release no new music or skateboarding games in 2011,” Activision COO Thomas Tippl said during the call. 
Don't expect to play a completed version of the Bungie project in 2011. As revealed during the call, the game isn't slated to release this year. Also, Activision isn't counting on Blizzard to get Diablo III or the next StarCraft II game to get out the door in 2011 either.


In Q4 2011, you’ll get another Spider-Man game created by the folks at Beenox who were responsible for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Also, a new Family Guy game, a Wipeout game, and apparently an X-Men and a Transformers game are slated, too.   

So, yeah, overall, money was made and it appears as if Activision will be leveraging the usual stuff: Call of Duty, its movie tie-ins, and World of Warcraft in the near future. I think that about sums it up. Anyone surprised by any of this news? 
UPDATE: Added in the Black Ops release date stuff and noted the Bungie and Blizzard news that came via the investor call.