Harmonix go to Fig to bring Rock Band 4 to PC - Update: it failed

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Jesus_Phish

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#1  Edited By Jesus_Phish

I've a real bad feeling that this time next year we'll be talking about how Harmonix used to be a studio and now they're not anymore.

Crowdfunding a port of an already existing game, to sell/resell DLC to new/old players on a new platform seems like it's one of the nails in the Harmonix coffin along with that Kinect 2 game they made for the Xbox and the lackluster sales of Rock Band 4.

Fig backer page

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Fear_the_Booboo

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I thought Fig would only do one game at the same time? That Jay&Bob game is still going, did they change the rule?

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cloudymusic

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Alex has had some things to say about this on Twitter.

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Milkman

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#4  Edited By Milkman

I will be absolutely shocked if Harmonix makes it through the year. Hell, I'll be mildly surprised if they make it through the summer. This is clearly a last ditch desperate attempt to save the studio. Seriously doubt it will work.

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alwaysbebombing

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Do you think they'll file Chapter 11 protection, or just close the studio?

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Cav829

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Say what you will about Guitar Hero Live versus Rock Band 4 and which one each person preferred, but them launching against each other when there was barely enough market demand to allow for one of them to make a comeback was the worst possible thing that could have happened and probably was enough to finish off Harmonix (and possibly Mad Catz as well). I half wonder if Activision just did it to finish Harmonix off with the view they would have the option to relaunch Guitar Hero at a later date minus any real competition.

Alex's commentary is pretty good. I remember when Harmonix was hiring people left and right to expand during the years Rock Band was at its most popular. They could seemingly not hire enough people to keep up with demand. And then the XBox One's Kinnect was decoupled from the system. And they stopped having the steady revenue stream from DLC sales with Rock Band (which also justified much of their staff) with the change in console generations.It's sad, but then again you start to realize a good chunk of the people who made that studio so great are no longer there and that the company has been in a slow downward spiral for a while now.

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turboman

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How did this happen to Harmonix?... like... what went wrong? Putting all of their efforts into Kinect?

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Noelle808

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@turboman: Alex mentioned this on twitter, but basically the company expanded a whole lot during the Rock Band boom, and it became totally unsustainable once that bubble popped.

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#9 alex  Staff

@turboman: Like anything, it's extremely complicated. It's no one thing, more like a series of things that all snowballed into the current mess they find themselves in. There's a long and detailed post-mortem to write about this studio, but I think it would be uncouth to write that before they're even in the ground. Who knows! Maybe they'll survive this too. They've certainly dodged what looked like certain doom before.

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Xearo

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@fear_the_booboo: They do two games now, a big one from a more known studio or name in the industry and a smaller one from a new dev.

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@turboman: Like, check their catalogue. It may sounds reductive to say this but... most of these games are based upon selling people something where the value being sold is something purchased in. What is being sold here is tied to the music catalogue. No matter how good your work is increasing the value of that music, if you start making a lot of money and don't have incredibly long contracts negotiated using phenomenal business savvy, the result will be next time you need to talk contracts and license music, the fees reflect your current profit points. Suddenly it's not about you making lots more money, it's about you keeping going while the company who owns the work you license get filthy rich. Where is your leverage in that contract negotiation? Without licensing the music, you're looking at a small niche game. You have to pay to buy in the content to stay at the scale that made plastic instruments work.

And moving out of the licensing (plus obviously massive of work, this wasn't just reselling something - just the mass market value of the final product was locked to that licensing) business just didn't seem to work out well. It's a hit-driven economy and you don't get many misses before you're broke. Fundamentally, for however large and ubiquitous the genre they defined was, I'm not sure Harmonix was ever the ones getting rich on that and would point at their licensing requirements as another reason (beyond the normal publisher etc issues) why this would be very true here. We don't know the inside financials (it's a private company, right? Except for the MTV years, for which the profits it made were part of MTV's profits).

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Ry_Ry

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Hopefully this is just a way to keep a few people busy while they do other things.

Sadly that's not at all how it reads.

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Too little too late for me. Aren't they published by EA too?

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@omgfather said:

Too little too late for me. Aren't they published by EA too?

The first three were but Harmonix partnered with Madcatz on RB4. It didn't go very well for them either, with sales "lower than originally forecast."

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OMGFather

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@thelastgunslinger said:

@omgfather said:

Too little too late for me. Aren't they published by EA too?

The first three were but Harmonix partnered with Madcatz on RB4. It didn't go very well for them either, with sales "lower than originally forecast."

Ah, didn't know that - thanks! I guess it makes more sense now going crowd funding.

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ShaggE

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I never, ever would have guessed when RB4 and GHL were announced that this would be the outcome. I knew that there wouldn't be a second boom for the genre, but it's crazy that RB4 might have ended up sinking Harmonix. (well, that and a million other things, but there's a lot to be read into them crowdfunding this port, and almost none of it good)

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Jesus_Phish

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@shagge: Activision didn't take a risk with GH, that was just pocket change for them. Harmonix needed Rock Band.

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Mijati

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@thelastgunslinger: Probably didn't help that it was over a month in the UK before there were any Xbox One versions available (at least with the adaptor). I bet that made them lose a whole lot of sales over here.

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@omgfather said:

Too little too late for me. Aren't they published by EA too?

The first three were but Harmonix partnered with Madcatz on RB4. It didn't go very well for them either, with sales "lower than originally forecast."

Oh man, I forgot that they are taking MadCatz down with them Unfortunate for everybody.

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Jesus_Phish

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So the campaign failed, raising just half of what it targeted and the majority of the money raised was from investors as opposed to customers.

In an update on the Fig page Harmonix are saying there's just not enough interest from consumers to get the game on PC. Thats a pretty clear indication that it's unlikely we're ever going to see the game on PC. If the devs themselves are saying that, how are they going to convince a publisher or investors to go ahead and fund it in the future?

For now they say they're just going to focus on updates for the console versions. But I have to wonder between this, between swapping publishers (they now co-publish with PDP and not Mad Catz) and between the very luke warm reception that both RB and GH received, how much is left in the tank at Harmonix. People seem to be jumping ship for the past year or so and nothing they're doing seems to be setting the world on fire.

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Humanity

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#21  Edited By Humanity

@jesus_phish: I think the tide might be turning and we're going to see a resurgence in abstract music games like Rez, Parappa or the excellent Guitaroo Man as opposed to these games based around real songs and real instruments. I for one wouldn't mind playing a new type of rhythm game.

Of course this is just me thinking aloud, I don't have any actual data or anecdotal evidence to back this up. More like wishful thinking.

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#22  Edited By chaser324  Moderator

@jesus_phish: I don't think you can really read too much into this about the overall popularity of rhythm games. Rock Band in particular just doesn't seem all that well suited to PC and on top of that Rock Band 4 seemed like a bit of a step backward for the franchise.

I do share your concerns though about the future of Harmonix. It's very unclear what the future holds for them.

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Jesus_Phish

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@chaser324: It might've been unclear but I'm not trying to draw a parallel between this failure and the popularity of rhythm games.

I think there's a number of reasons this failed, including it being too little too late, having no cross platform support, PCs historically being used by a single player at a time, running it on FIG instead of Kickstarter and just not trying to generate that much hype about it.

I think what @humanity said has a chance of happening. Instead of these "party" rhythm games we're going to start seeing a few more tailored/abstract ones. Things like Fez, like Amplitude. But compared to previous generations neither Harmonix nor Activision are getting out there trumpeting from the towers about how fantastic their rhythm games sold this time around.

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