Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Dan Rosensweig Steps Up to Take His Licks as Guitar Hero Frontman

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Former Yahoo COO and current Quadrangle Group partner Dan Rosensweig (pictured here) will take over as CEO and president of Activision Blizzard’s powerful Guitar Hero franchise, according to sources close to the situation.

Rosensweig will run the hot gaming company’s division, which is located in Silicon Valley, the result of its purchase of RedOctane in 2006, source said.

He is well known to Activision (ATVI) Chairman and CEO Bobby Kotick, who served on the Yahoo board for many years when Rosensweig was a key exec there. Both Rosensweig and Kotick have since left Yahoo.

It’s an interesting move for Rosensweig, who has been working in private equity since his departure from Yahoo (YHOO) in late 2006.

His name has been bandied about for several high-profile Web positions of late, and many thought he might take a political job, given that he was one of many digital execs involved in helping elect President Barack Obama.

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But the weak market for investments and Rosensweig’s longtime experience and interest in eventually returning to operations–along with his well-known passion for music–are the likeliest motivators for the move to Guitar Hero.

Sources said Rosensweig will start his new job at Guitar Hero–which Activision could announce as early as tomorrow–in several weeks.

Running a major consumer brand like Guitar Hero seems tailor-made for Rosensweig, who worked at CNET Networks and Ziff-Davis before Yahoo. In addition, the jovial exec is well-respected in Silicon Valley, giving Activision a much more prominent presence here.

And the energetic Kotick (pictured below with me and, yes, Paula Abdul of “American Idol”–don’t ask) has long talked about turbocharging the largely retail Guitar Hero business online, as a way to further grow the music phenom.

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User-generated music, as well as a plethora of online transactions and social networking, have been promising new revenue opportunities, Kotick has said.

(See video highlights of my interview with Kotick below on that topic and more at last year’s D: All Things Digital conference.)

Overall, despite the weak economy and a cautious forecast going forward, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Activision is growing, with revenues up in the last quarter, due in large part to the popularity of its Guitar Hero and Call of Duty videogames.

Its fast pace, in contrast to rival Electronic Arts (ERTS), has been helped by its merger with Vivendi SA’s Blizzard Entertainment last summer. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft online game is also one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world.

Here’s a highlights video from my interview with Kotick at D6:


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One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue. The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.

— Gabe Newell, co-founder of videogame company Valve, which publishes Portal and Half-Life