Guitar Hero publisher Activision feels "nothing but love" for troubled Rock Band 3 developer Harmonix.

Speaking in an interview with IndustryGamers about a potential buy-out of the studio, currently in the process of being cut loose by its owners, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg said, "I can't comment on that, James, for obvious reasons.

"I can tell you I've got a ton of respect for Harmonix," he added. "They're a hell of a developer, and very innovative, and I've got nothing but love for them."

Harmonix, of course, created the Guitar Hero series for Activision, before being bought out by Viacom in 2006, for whom it then developed the Rock Band series. Earlier this year, Activision boss Bobby Kotick claimed that he regretted not courting the studio.

Hirshberg went on to discuss the future of the Guitar Hero franchise, which has been suffering dismal sales of late.

"It's no secret that not just Guitar Hero, but also Rock Band, and the music category in general, do not have the same mass appeal today that they did a few years ago.

"That said, I think that we would be foolish to not try and build on the strength of the Guitar Hero brand, because as you said, it's a pretty strong brand with great recognition and great likeability, and there's a lot to work with there.

"I think the road to rejuvenating that category goes through innovation," he continued. "The premise of Guitar Hero - that everyone has an inner rock star - it's something that we've all done forever. Some version of singing into a hairbrush, or holding a tennis racket like a guitar, or singing karaoke, or singing into the bathroom mirror - we all do that.

"I think a lot of video game genres that have had tremendous staying power have a fantasy-fulfillment element at their core, whether it's driving the fast car, or participating in professional sports, or going into battle. People don't get to do this in everyday lives.

"So I think the core premise and the core insight at the heart of the Guitar Hero franchise is still very relevant. I just think we need to escalate the experience for people and innovate. I think the genre is still fairly new, and so I think it's probably time for us to really look at what the next level looks like for that genre."

The publisher has already confirmed that the franchise will return in 2011.

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Fred Dutton

Fred Dutton

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Fred Dutton is Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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