Sales of the Guitar Hero series crashed because Activision had stopped listening to its audience, CEO Bobby Kotick has admitted.
Speaking in an interview with Forbes, Kotick explained how the publisher had grown complacent following the series' early flush of success and subsequently starved it of innovation.
"We didn't really take the time that we usually take to understand audience behavior," he said.
"It was one of those things where we were resting on the idea that one of the essential fantasies of video games is to unleash your inner rock star. And it didn't really matter how you did that, but as long as you were allowing people to unleash their inner rock star fantasies, you’d continue to be successful. So we went off on a passion project that had a point of differentiation – which is called DJ Hero.
In hindsight, he conceded, that was probably a mistake.
"We should have said, 'Well, how many people really want to unleash their inner DJ?' And then out of the people who do want to unleash their inner DJ, how many want to do it in the context of a game where you earn points, versus just taking a DJ deck or tools on their Macintosh and actually being a DJ? And it turns out it's a very small market."
Kotick explained that the enthusiasm and creativity the publisher poured into DJ Hero meant Guitar Hero went neglected.
"These are the hardest failures, when you put your heart and soul into it and you deliver an extraordinarily well received game, and nobody shows up to buy it. So that’s what happened with DJ Hero.
"At the same time we were so excited about going down this new direction with DJ Hero, I think we abandoned a bit of the innovation that was required in the Guitar Hero franchise.
"And so it was the double whammy of DJ Hero was unsuccessful, and then Guitar Hero became unsuccessful because it didn't have any nourishment and care. So we made what I think was exactly the right decision last year [to cease development]."
He revealed that work is underway on reinventing the Guitar Hero series, with an unnamed studio currently exploring "technology pathways" and working on "a variety of different prototypes."
"We said, you know what, we need to regain our audience interest, and we really need to deliver inspired innovation. So we're going to take the products out of the market, and we're not going to tell anybody what we're doing for awhile, but we're going to stop selling Guitar Hero altogether.
"And then we're going to go back to the studios and we're going to use new studios and reinvent Guitar Hero. And so that's what we're doing with it now."