In 2006 Activision bought Guitar Hero publisher Red Octane, with the then fledgling franchise switching from music game specialist Harmonix to Activision's own Neversoft studio. Harmonix went on to develop Rock Band for MTV Games.
Speaking at the DICE gaming convention, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick revealed the publisher made a mistake in acquiring Red Octane and Guitar Hero, but not its developer.
"When we were buying Guitar Hero, or buying Red Octane, the makers of Guitar Hero, we knew about Harmonix," said Kotick. "We had always known them as sort of somewhat a failed developer of music games. They always had really great ideas but nothing that was really commercially viable until Guitar Hero. And [we thought], it's a good piece of software, and if we gave it to Neversoft, they'd knock the ball out of the park with this.
"We really didn't even think, 'Hey we should go to Boston, and meet these Harmonix guys and see what they're up to'."
Kotick added: "If we had gone up, I think the world of Guitar Hero would have been rewritten. It would be a lot different today. And it would probably be a profitable opportunity for both of us and an opportunity where you'd have even more innovation in the category."
He explained Activision missed what was "really important", pointing to qualities such as passion, commitment and inspiration to come up with the next big idea.
Activision plans to release new games in both the Guitar Hero and DJ Hero franchises later this year.