In a set of financial announcements released today, Viacom has announced that it plans to sell off developer Harmonix Music Systems, the team behind Rock Band, Dance Central, and the first two releases of Guitar Hero. As Viacom explains in its report, the developer has now been “reclassified… as a discontinued operation”, so any new game in either the Rock Band or Dance Central franchises is going to come from some other publisher than MTV.
Over on the Rock Band 3 forums, Harmonix is assuring fans of the franchise that Viacom and MTV will continue to support Rock Band 3 until a sale goes through. Harmonix PR Big Shot John Drake posted on the Rock Band 3 boards that several buyers had expressed interest in picking up the developer, and, in the meantime, Rock Band and Dance Central players wouldn’t need to worry about the sale having an impact on support.
This morning’s announcement does not affect the ongoing work at the studio as we continue to support our existing franchises, Rock Band and Dance Central. As stated earlier, Viacom is in discussions with several potential buyers and will continue to fully support the business until a sale is completed.
Purchased by Viacom back in 2006 for the at-the-time whopping price of $175 million, Harmonix has since developed ten games together, including three proper Rock Band iterations, as well as two band specific s spin-offs, and several mobile titles. Despite the popularity and critical success of Harmonix’s major franchises, there have been signs that MTV and Viacom haven’t been pleased with the developer’s profit potential. Earlier this year, Viacom demanded that Harmonix refund a “substantial portion” of the devloper’s earned bonus payouts, claiming that, “We (MTV) are entitled to a refund,” leading some to speculate that the team’s writing has been on the wall for some time.
As it stands now, the partnership between Viacom and Harmonix looks like it's coming to a close. We'll see, before too long, if one of those prospective buyers decides to add Harmonix to its developer lineup.