Viacom Prepares To Sell Harmonix


Viacom, parent company of MTV and BET,  broke the news this week during their quarterly report that the company is selling Harmonix, the makers of Rock Band. According to Viacom the decision was made before the release of Harmonix’s Rock Band 3. Viacom had purchased Harmonix four years ago for $175 million but sales of Rock Band have failed to meet Viacom’s expectations.

“In September 2010, the Company’s Board of Directors authorized management to proceed with a sale of our Harmonix business (“Harmonix”), which develops music-based games, including the Rock Band franchise.

Management is actively marketing Harmonix for sale and is committed to a plan that management believes will result in the sale of the business within twelve months. ”

“Accordingly, the results of operations of Harmonix, which were previously included in the Media Networks segment, are presented as discontinued operations throughout this Transition Report. The loss from discontinued operations, net of tax was $321 million and $37 million in the nine months ended September 30, 2010 and 2009, respectively. The loss in 2010 principally reflects a $230 million impairment loss on Harmonix goodwill and other charges of approximately $30 million, principally related to amortized development costs and other assets associated with legacy versions of the Rock Band game.”

“The impairment resulted from continued softness in the disc-based video game industry, specifically the music genre, which has impacted sales of recent video game releases. The cash flow projections used in the goodwill impairment analysis reflect these conditions.” Source

Viacom has also stated that they already have “several potential buyers” interested in Harmonix. In the meantime since the news broke Harmonix left a message on the official Rock Band forums stating that despite recent developments Harmonix will continue to support all of their existing franchises.

So as of now Harmonix is up for grabs and I doubt with the money that’s been invested in the developer that Viacom will settle for the lowest bidder.

Which leaves me to believe that there are only three company’s out there that may end up taking Harmonix off Viacom’s hands. Those company’s are Microsoft, Activision or EA.


Written by: Sakinah - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Luke on November 13th, 2010 [ 27382 Points ]

    How many did they sell? I always thought that the franchise is doing fairly well.

  2. #2 by Sakinah on November 13th, 2010 [ 26489 Points ]

    Not sure about RB3 but I know Green Day Rock Band didn’t sell too well, and The Beetles Rock Band didn’t make enough to cover the license fee Viacom paid for to use the songs.

  3. #3 by Jay on November 13th, 2010 [ 83111 Points ]

    which is sad because the Beatles Rock Band was very polished (more so than any other Rock Band title). Green Day is meh, but RB3 is decent; still better than Guitar Hero.

    I would hope that EA buys them up. Activision would phase out the Rock Band franchise so Guitar Hero can pretty much monopolize the market on big-license music games. Or they would have dual-development with Red Octane developing a GH title one year, and Harmonix doing one the next like Treyarch and Infinity Ward with COD.

    Which would over-saturate the market even more, but since music and rhythm games are aimed at too specific of an audience, sales still won’t cover the licensing, and thus, Harmonix will eventually be phased out as well. I mean, it’s not Call of Duty.

    At least if EA buys out Harmonix, it would guarantee competition between GH and RB, which would force both the developer and the publisher to improve on the games more and more. And if EA owns the studio, cash flow to the studio will be more readily available. Theoretically, anyway.

    I wouldn’t like to see either Sony or M$ buy them up because that would limit potential sales too much to a small crowd on one or two particular consoles, which would negatively affect licensing of big names in the future.


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