Activision CEO: Led Zeppelin Turned Down 'Guitar Hero'

Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick recently told Forbes magazine that he desperately tried to get the members of Led Zeppelin to sign away their rights to a Guitar Hero game without success.

Speaking to Forbes, Kotick said getting a Zeppelin-themed game was the "number one thing" fans wanted from Activision, but the firm was unable to convince the band to sign over the rights to their music. The band have been particularly protective of their original masters falling in to the wrong hands.

"In the case of Guitar Hero, we did the research and it was very clear people didn't want more '80s heavy metal music," he said. "But what they wanted was very difficult for us to get from the music companies.

"I'll give you an example: The number one thing that our audiences wanted in Guitar Hero was Led Zeppelin. But we couldn't get Led Zeppelin to consent to give us the rights. And there were a lot of instances of that, a whole host of artists who just didn't want to give rights to Guitar Hero, and it was hard to get around that. And then there were other things... we put things out there that were not ready for prime time and that today actually would resonate very well with audiences."

Of Guitar Hero, Jimmy Page said in 2009, "You think of the drum part that John Bonham did on Led Zeppelin's first track on the first album, 'Good Times Bad Times'. How many drummers in the world can play that part, let alone on Christmas morning?"

In a later statement, he proved somewhat more amicable towards the game, saying, "It's always a possibility that someone who's playing those games may well want to actually take the step on their own. Or maybe they're already playing guitar and they play that rock game. Y'know, it's a fun thing to do, you get an understanding of the timing of music, with that you can have fun with on it. I think the most important thing is that with an instrument, you should just really have fun with it and enjoy it."

Activision announced in February that it was disbanding the unit that makes its Guitar Hero games, citing a declining interest in music-based video games.

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.