Live blog: Activision at E3 is 'Guitar Hero' and beyond

While none of the major press conferences at E3 this year has had shocking news, the pressure is on Activision to match EA's performance.

The big Tuesday events concluded in the evening with Activision's press conference, where the company was expected to talk much more about the future of 'Guitar Hero' as well as some of its other important franchises. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

LOS ANGELES--When Vivendi Universal announced it was buying Activision last December, it was clearly a bid to compete with Electronic Arts for the top spot on the world's roster of video game publishers.

Well, it's certainly not fair to judge such goals by where companies have their E3 press conferences, but if this year's media events at the video game industry's annual confab are any indication, Activision has a long way to go to catch up with EA.

That's because EA had its press conference at L.A.'s opulent Orpheum theater, and Activision is about to have its own at a much smaller venue that has no particular distinction that I'm aware of. I could, of course, be missing some great history that this building has, but I doubt it.

Regardless, it's not really about venues at all and it is entirely about game lineups and place in the industry, and it is likely that Activision will have some pretty cool things to show when it gets going, hopefully in a few minutes.

Surely, the list of things it will talk about will be heavy with Guitar Hero and Call of Duty.

So please stay tuned to this live blog, as I'll be updating regularly, as I have with the Microsoft, EA, Nintendo and Sony press conferences.

Update 7:29 p.m.: The press conference has begun, and Activision publishing president and CEO Mike Griffith started out by talking about some of his company's performance in the last year.

Among the milestones he mentioned is that since Vivendi bought Activision, the new Activision Blizzard--as the company is now known--is three times as big as the independent company was a year ago.

As far as sales go, Activision is clearly leaning heavily on the Guitar Hero franchise. One example of that is that Griffith said that the Nintendo DS version of the game, Guitar Hero: On Tour has sold 10 times the number of copies any other Activision DS game had sold in the same amount of time on the market.

Further, he said that Guitar Hero users have downloaded more than 18 million songs for the various versions of the game.

Update 7:38 p.m.: Mark Lamia, from Treyarch, the developer of Call of Duty: World at War, is now on-stage to talk about the latest iteration in the hit franchise.

Lamia said that actor Kiefer Sutherland would be one of the voices in the new Call of Duty.

Update 8:16 p.m.: The main event for Activision is clearly Guitar Hero: World Tour, and now Brian Bright from developer Neversoft is up on stage now talking about the game, and its new instruments.

Brian Bright of Neversoft shows off the new 'Guitar Hero' guitar during the Activision E3 press conference Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

First, he's talking about the game's new guitar, which he says is longer, has a directional knob, and now has an accelerometer. It also has a slider on the neck, allowing for much more control over the play of music.

There's also an all-new drum kit, and one of the interesting things about this is that it is possible to plug a professional drum kit into it.

But what I think is the most interesting element of the new game is the so-called Music Studio.

Bright demonstrates the Music Studio element of 'Guitar Hero: World Tour.' This is the part of the game that will allow players to create their own music and then share it online through what is called the Tunes system. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

This is the part of the game that will allow players to create their own music, edit it, save it, and then share it on the Internet.

There are a lot of different parts of this, but one is that it allows players to define a wide range of different kinds, or even styles of instruments, such as British Invasion guitars, or, say, a Metallica guitar.

The studio provides a wide variety of editing and mixing tools, and all of this is built around the idea of uploading songs to what is called Guitar Hero Tunes.

This is, as Bright put it, a mix of YouTube and Billboard, because songs that are uploaded can be ranked by the entire Guitar Hero community.

And this seems sure to be a place where new musical talent is discovered, much as new video talent has come out of the YouTube community.

Further, the Tunes system gives players tools for making their own album covers, all in the guise of more realism and fun and creativity.

All in all, Activision had only a few games to showcase, and notwithstanding the new Guitar Hero, I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed by its offerings, particularly because of the company's place in the video game publishing hierarchy.

But, it all boils down to sales figures, and Guitar Hero: World Tour is sure to bring in many, many millions of dollars. And in the video game business, the bottom line talks.

 

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