Viacom Is Selling Off Harmonix

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Posted by MattBodega (1904 posts) -

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.
 

Will we see another iteration of Dance Central? 

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.
 

It's been a long road... but hopefully the road isn't over just yet.

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.
#1 Posted by MattBodega (1904 posts) -

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.
 

Will we see another iteration of Dance Central? 

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.
 

It's been a long road... but hopefully the road isn't over just yet.

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.
#2 Posted by snetErz (120 posts) -

whoa!

#3 Posted by anterline (73 posts) -

Yeah, its good news in a way.

#4 Posted by gmanzig (5 posts) -

oh really?  REALLY?  Is this a good thing or a GOOD thing?

#5 Posted by Spiral_Stars (456 posts) -

Dumping a successful studio is Un-American.

#6 Posted by Animasta (14675 posts) -

the time is now, activision!

#7 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

That's too bad.  Harmonix seemed like they almost belonged under an MTV label, since they were about the only thing music related left in that brand's stable.

Moderator Online
#8 Posted by Jeffk38uk (715 posts) -

At first i thought this was kinda weird given how successful they've been on every angle as a game and for support, but if the two have had issues internally for a while, then it makes a bit more sense. 
 
Makes you wonder who will take up the reigns over Harmonix.

#9 Posted by JohnDudebro (924 posts) -

Music games are not selling and Rock Band 3 is, for a music game, pretty inaccessible. I'm not super surprised.

#10 Posted by FinalDasa (1616 posts) -

Such a horrible idea, Harmonix knows how to make a good game and they reinvented the musical game to what it is today. 
 
Seems like company bullshit to ask to bonuses back too.

Moderator
#11 Posted by GreggD (4490 posts) -
@BananaKid said:
" Music games are not selling and Rock Band 3 is, for a music game, pretty inaccessible. I'm not super surprised. "
Wait, what?
#12 Posted by GS_Dan (1403 posts) -

I think it was Beatles Rock Band which kind of cemented it. 
That said, who would people prefer to buy HMX? Activision? EA? ...Apple? 
As long as it isn't one of the big three- locking platforms out Isn't Cool.

#13 Posted by TobyD81 (1227 posts) -

I'm kinda worried about this. I'm a bit of an Harmonix fanboy, and I want them to be in the best possible environment for their development. The calls from financial analysts that Rock Band and Guitar Hero should "merge" back into one franchise is troubling. I love where Rock Band has gone in the music game genre and I want that to keep going.

#14 Posted by Afroman269 (7387 posts) -
@Laketown said:
" the time is now, activision! "
Fuck that idea.
#15 Posted by MaFoLu (1858 posts) -

Now Activision will pick them up and they can start pumping out Guitar Hero games...

#16 Posted by gakon (1952 posts) -

Does this mean Harmonix will leave Rock Band with Viacom while they make a third music game franchise, in the same way they left Guitar Hero to Activision to go make Rock Band?

#17 Posted by Metal_Mills (2992 posts) -
@Laketown said:
" the time is now, activision! "
I guarantee activision won't buy them. Guitar Hero sold poorly. Rock Band 3 fucking bombed. They won't buy them because they won't make a profit. Activision want new fresh games they can pump out for years, not a developer who might have one or two games left in them.
#18 Posted by EchoForge (154 posts) -

Coming November 2011, Rock Hero, published by Ubisoft. 
 
*cringe*
#19 Posted by Shuborno (938 posts) -

This is really too bad.  I hope Harmonix is able to support Rock Band 3 the same way they've supported the previous games. 
 
I know the mainsteam popularity of the genre has declined, but they've finally made something to pay off on the potential of the medium with the Pro instruments and I'd hate to see an end to that.  I was looking forward to having a fun way to pick up new songs via DLC (I already play guitar, and it seems cool to bring that exact skill straight into a game).

#20 Edited by DukeTogo (1504 posts) -

The party's over, music games are done.  I look forward to getting Rock Band 3 and the peripherals for cheap when it all goes to the bargain bin.
 
I would love it if Konami bought them, making it come full circle and they would finally have both sides of the world covered.

#21 Posted by DeadFish (228 posts) -
@EchoForge said:
" Coming November 2011, Rock Hero, published by Ubisoft.  *cringe* "
Long awaited sequel to the critically acclaimed Band Hero? :P Yep, the market is already confused as fuck.
#22 Posted by DrWhat (280 posts) -

I think Activision should think about it, Vivendi should be able to deliver some stuff from UMG and everyone loves music games, right? Right?
 
Buh. I don't know why they made this decision now. RB3 should sell well right up until the end of the year. It's a christmas purchase thing.

#23 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10919 posts) -

Activision should buy them, and then make Guitar Hero better. 

Moderator
#24 Posted by Nictel (2412 posts) -

1: Make good music games 
2: ??? 
3: NOT ENOUGH PROFIT 
4: Yard sale!

#25 Posted by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -

What the fuck do MTV know about music anyway.

#26 Posted by Beomoose (682 posts) -
@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:
"

That's too bad.  Harmonix seemed like they almost belonged under an MTV label, since they were about the only thing music related left in that brand's stable.

"
And now you know why it had to go. MTV no longer gives 2 sh_ts about music
#27 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

I hope that the Rock BAnd name gained enough clout in the last few years to stand without MTV. I expect it has, especially with the power of the RBN. But this could lead to very bad things. I should probably get that RB3 guitar sooner rather than later...

#28 Posted by skrutop (3615 posts) -

I'm not surprised to see all of the "the sky is falling" speculation, but it's way too early to tell what will happen with the franchise.

#29 Posted by MeatSim (10834 posts) -

Someones gonna pick them up no doubt.

#30 Posted by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

I hope Activision grabs them, oh the fun that will be had by some.

#31 Posted by dragonzord (811 posts) -

This is bad no matter who picks them up. 
 
Who could get music licenses as well as MTV for DLC? No one.

#32 Posted by samsaturday (91 posts) -

So who will own Rock Band and Dance Central? Harmonix, their new owners, or Viacom?

#33 Posted by MysteriousBob (6272 posts) -

I have played Guitar Hero. The first one. I didn't even know MTV owned them. Hell, I didn't even know MTV published games.

#34 Posted by Shuborno (938 posts) -
@zoner said:
" This is bad no matter who picks them up.  Who could get music licenses as well as MTV for DLC? No one. "
We can hope that internal Harmonix reps were making these deals and that their contacts are preserved. 
 
I don't think this is as much of a problem for getting rights to music by newer artists, but the old guard will not necessarily be as inclined to jump on board with a video game company as they would have been with an old leading name in music (even if that's not what MTV is anymore).
#35 Posted by thebipsnbeeps (547 posts) -

So will I not see anymore Rock Band DLC commercials/notices or those small Beatles Rock Band-related documentaries any more on VH1 Classics? Regardless, I hope Harmonix gets someone soon. Those music games and downloadable songs can't fund for themselves!
#36 Posted by anbumakura (151 posts) -

I hope someone picks them up who will better appreciate the amazing work that they do. They are probably my favorite developer right now. I can't believe that with all of their DLC sales they wouldn't be making a ton of money.

#37 Posted by Bundle85 (149 posts) -

I want to blame Activision for flooding the market, but the article puts into perspective that the writing has been on the wall. Well, guess those upgrades for older DLC ain't coming.

#38 Posted by delicious_lie (160 posts) -

whoa

#39 Posted by MildMolasses (3219 posts) -

Actually HMX did the first 3 Guitar Hero games. The 80s editioned sucked, but it was still them. 
 
I think MS should buy them. The RB/GH style of game may be finished, but I have no doubt that Harmonix can still create new and fun ways of gaming incorporating music
#40 Posted by umdesch4 (772 posts) -

Well that kinda sucks. I'm guessing that new DLC for Dance Central doesn't fall under the category of "continued support". I was kinda looking forward to some more songs.

#41 Posted by RedFive (142 posts) -

Harmonix is by far my favorite developer. I felt they were completely hitting their stride with Rock Band 3 as well! As mentioned before, perhaps Microsoft would be a good place for them to land. Let's all hope this ends well!

#42 Posted by Mesklinite (804 posts) -

I wonder if activision....
#43 Posted by Ronald (1365 posts) -

Does anyone bother to read the articles?

"so any new game in either the Rock Band or Dance Central franchises is going to come from some other publisher than MTV. "

That would seem to indicate that Rock Band and Dance Central are Harmonix properties. And I think anyone who picks them up would get the same deal Viacom got, they can publish the games and own the company but Harmonix would keep the rights to the franchises. 
 
And I'm pretty sure sales of The Beatles is what hurt Harmonix because of how expensive the license for the music was. When they should have known how niche it would be, especially with the lack of an export feature. I know I didn't pick it up, since I'm not interested in only The Beatles music. The question becomes, what happens to Rock Band 3 after the sale? Will it disappear from shelves and Harmonix has to make a new game to make up for it? Will DLC continue under a new publisher? 
 
Now who to pick them up? I could see EA look to pick them up, since it would just be EA cutting out the middle man of MTV from the equation.
#44 Posted by KillerFly (396 posts) -
@GreggD said:
" @BananaKid said:
" Music games are not selling and Rock Band 3 is, for a music game, pretty inaccessible. I'm not super surprised. "
Wait, what? "
Yeah, what? Pro-mode is relatively inaccessible, but there is plenty of stuff in Rock Band 3 for the casual player. 
#45 Posted by RiotBananas (3600 posts) -

Calling it. Activision will buy them.

#46 Posted by kratier (223 posts) -

gimmicky toy + fad of music games = outdated and no longer selling, new gimmicky toy everyone is buying is kinect and ps move
#47 Posted by EgoCheck616 (782 posts) -

GET ON IT, EA. 
Now is your chance.

#48 Edited by Praab_NZ (280 posts) -

Why do i feel like DLC rights will be harder to aquire if you dont have MTV behind you. 
 
Also F Activision for their saturation of the market with low quality everything. Harmonix are producing 10/10 games to a market that is full of ridiculous copies, so people are like durr another rythmn gaem? BUT I ALREADY PLAY GUITAR HERO??!?.

#49 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -

As I mentioned in this morning's thread on this,  
 
 From GameInformer: 
 

 Given Viacom's sale of Harmonix so closely after the release of these games, it would appear that the timing on Viacom's part was planned all along. However, the sale also brings up questions about the state of Harmonix itself. Would Viacom cut the developer loose if it was doing well? Does Viacom believe that music games are on the decline and wants to get as much money for Harmonix while the getting's still good? Or maybe someone offered Viacom a deal so great it couldn't refuse.    

I hope not to see the franchise die.  And I certainly hope that whoever buys it will continue to support it, ie DLC.  Though I am kinda ticked that this may have been planned, considering RB3 has had a fairly crummy release, and I'm not just talking sales.  Bugs in the game, the "new" website that is a total downgrade from the old site.     
 
I'm not so certain, though, that music games are done.  Not with "pro" games/modes just having come out.  This is what people have been wanting, complaining about, etc for the last few years.
#50 Posted by Nomin (972 posts) -

They should go open source somewhat and try to provide a platform of shoehorning the rhythmic gameplay interface on user created or licensed music acquired elsewhere, similar to what audiosurf did. Of course lawsuits will be pending by circumventing the license agreements. 
 
Or just venture into iPad / smartphone territory to see if there is any interest in rhythm games on those smaller platforms. 

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