In a move worthy of the lowliest of message board flamewars, Forbes has accused Electronic Arts' Rock Band series of shamelessly stealing ideas from Activision's Guitar Hero franchise. The remark came in a profile of Activision head Bobby Kotick, detailing his surprising rise from "a man with no interest in playing videogames" to the leader of "the world's most successful videogame publisher."
Describing how EA has fallen behind Activision and is now "taking to its new role as the industry's underdog with gusto," the article remarked that "EA also teamed with MTV to sell Rock Band, a shameless knockoff of Guitar Hero that added drums, bass and a microphone to the world of make-believe rock stars."
I'm not here to defend Electronic Arts, but this is pretty blatantly wrong. As most of us know, Guitar Hero was originally developed by Harmonix, who then split from Activision when they were bought by MTV, and then went on to make Rock Band. There was no stealing of ideas - the people who came up with the idea for Rock Band were the same ones who came up with the one for Guitar Hero. You could, of course, argue that the idea for Guitar Hero was ripped off from Konami's idea for GuitarFreaks, but that just leaves us with the whole question of what "originality" is in the first place, and the idea that isn't everything just a knockoff of something that came before?
The Forbes article's really just a dolled-up narrative of Kotick's rise from average businessman to games industry messiah, and yeah, it is what it is, but getting the facts so wrong (or ignoring the fact that Guitar Hero World Tour might be called a "shameless knockoff" of Rock Band), is inexcusable. I'm betting whoever wrote the article is one of those people who thinks that Samus is named Metroid and Link is Zelda, but that actually might be giving them too much credit too.