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Activision's Guitar Hero chief exits after less than a year [updated]

February 2, 2010 |  1:16 pm

After a string of disappointing releases in 2009 and a slump in the music-video-game genre in general, Dan Rosensweig, chief executive of Activision Blizzard Inc.'s Guitar Hero unit, has unexpectedly exited his post.

Rosensweig, who joined the company only last March, will become chief executive of online textbook-rental company Chegg.com. (For more on that move, see the Times' technology blog.)

A heavy hitter in the media world who previously served as chief operating officer of Yahoo Inc., Rosensweig was tapped by Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick last year to bolster Guitar Hero, one of the video-game publisher's three key brands along with World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. The two had previously served together on Yahoo's board.

This fall was the busiest season ever for Guitar Hero, as four major sequels and spin-offs were released. All posted modest or poor sales figures, according to data from the NPD Group obtained by the L.A. Times.

Guitar Hero 5, for instance, sold just under 1 million units in the U.S. from September through the end of the year. Its 2008 predecessor, Guitar Hero: World Tour, sold 3.4 million units in the same time period.

October spin-offs DJ Hero and Band Hero sold a modest 789,000 and 590,000 units, respectively, while December's Guitar Hero: Van Halen moved a disastrously low 64,000.

Sales weren't hot either for Guitar Hero's biggest competitor, MTV's hugely anticipated Rock Band: Beatles, which sold 1.1 million units. Total domestic revenue for music and dancing games plummeted 46% last year, according to NPD.

Activision is not replacing Rosensweig. Chief Operating Officer David Haddad will remain as the most senior executive in the Guitar Hero group and report to Activision publishing President Michael Griffith.

"As we enter 2010, David Haddad with broad consumer product and digital/online experience is the right leader at the time to drive our agenda to improve profitability," an Activision spokeswoman said.

Update, 3:10 p.m.: People close to the company said that Rosensweig had been expected to quickly rise in Activision's ranks when he joined the company last year.

In addition, the people said that Activision will release fewer Guitar Hero retail sequels going forward and focus more on digital distribution

-- Ben Fritz

Related:

Former Yahoo exec Dan Rosensweig joins Chegg.com

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