50 people lost their jobs from Vicarious Visions in Mendands, NY with the death of the Guitar Hero franchise on February 9th. The cited reason in the termination paperwork was the elimination of the Guitar Hero "Business Unit". The sad fact is that Vicarious Visions was in the process of reviving the franchise - injecting it with the "creativity" and "inspired innovation" that Kotick bemoans the series lacking due to Neversoft's mis-handling, the same innovation and creativity that it will never have again now that all of the creative people who were to see the series through to its subsequent release in 2012 have been laid off, in perhaps the most hush-hush manner ever surrounding a game's utter implosion. It's easy to connect the dots as to what Activision were doing - observe Neversoft's staffing cupboard being laid bare by their corporate overlords, and the flocking of specific audio people and Neversoft staff to the Capital region. Observe the sudden uptick in hiring over the past 24 months.
Do note, please, that all of the rank-and-file employees who had been in the industry for more than a few years and hadn't yet drank the corporate Kool-Aid could see the writing on the wall years before the franchise started to flag. It was plainly obvious that Guitar Hero was never anything more than a quizzical curio of the executives, one that had materialized a billion dollars into their net worth for no good reason that any of their MBAs, marketing research, or "producers" could cite, but one that people appeared to want in record numbers. As they saw it, perhaps without realizing it, the series was one to be expanded, not honed - mass-produced, not polished. Guitar Hero, in the land of business-people, was to become as ubiquitous as the Wii, the Xbox, or Playstation - they wanted Guitar Hero to be come not a game, but a platform, and any gamer worth his or her salt can tell you that that is impossible. You reach market saturation, you polish for one iteration or perhaps two if demand does not flag, you move on. The fact, however, that (again) any gamer can tell you is that unless you have a brand that is couched in gamer culture that existed well prior to the introduction of Internet connectivity at large - compare to Mario or Madden, as even the Sonic franchise has become lackluster in light of its lack of pre-90's roots - people will not remain interested for more than a few years at best. A new fad comes along, staff turnover comes along, new hardware comes along, and with new things people want new franchises.
The sad fact is that the employees who balked at the notion of monetizing the Guitar Hero series were met with harsh reprimands - money is a cruel mistress, and it can make people do cruel things without even realizing it. Certainly, when one drives a new car into work and shuts that door for the first time in front of his coworkers, one would never admit that it could all come crashing down within six months, 12, 24 or ever. Employees that balked the loudest were laid off the soonest as the music/rhythm franchise began its inexorable decline, while those who praised every iteration, every minute variant were richly rewarded for their sycophantic loyalty.
The sad fact here is that there are no winners or losers, now, at the sad end of The Music/Rhythm Wars. Konami's interest level in polishing the Revolution and Freaks series seems to have ended long ago, Power Gig was a failure, Rock Band 3 sold worse than Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, roughly 500 people across different Activision studios lost their jobs in one go when Activision officially announced the termination of the Guitar Hero business unit, not to mention the studio closings and down-sizing occurring over the past two years - likely as an attempt to keep the Guitar Hero franchise afloat as it hemorrhaged money, Harmonix were sold off by Viacom for $50 and the assumption of their considerable debts - this after having their $150 million performance-based bonus requested to be returned as a result of their lack of meeting said performance. It is a sad story all around, with everyone losing. People have lost their jobs. Gamers have lost ongoing downloadable content for games that some of them loved until the day the games died. Money has been lost. People have moved across the country, some multiple times, only to have their lives turned upside-down within months. Yet, at the end of it all, Robert Kotick has the audacity to claim that the series "needs innovation" despite the fact that people who were specifically in the process of doing just that were released from his employ in February of this year.
Whether through sheer ignorance, misinformation by underlings or outright callousness, Kotick is a genuinely evil man who is wholly out of touch with gaming. His ignorant comments were a source of amusement to people when they were under his employ, but for those same people these same words have become a flaming rapier thrusting deeply into the gut of everyone who is now unemployed due to his and his hand-picked underlings' utter mismanagement of the franchise. It would be pointless, perhaps, to suggest that a man with no shame should be seized with a sudden attack of the deepest and most paralyzing shame that he has ever felt in his life - but indeed, if it were possible, it would have occurred the moment he made these comments in the article.