Rock Band blamed for lower Viacom revs

Conglomerate calls out MTV Games' rhythm game for Media Networks segment's 6% slide in Q4 to $2.33 billion; overall quarterly revenues reach $4.1 billion.

High-priced bundles are what Activision and MTV Games' rhythm-game empires were built on, but that foundation made for shaky ground in 2009. Yesterday, Activision Blizzard said its rhythm game business fell off 35 percent in 2009, and as a result, it would be trimming its 2010 music game release slate to just DJ Hero 2 and a new Guitar Hero game. The publisher also noted that the music gaming market is moving away from hardware bundles and toward stand-alone software sales.

The Beatles couldn't shift bundles to match pace with last year.

Similar travails are in play at MTV Games' parent company Viacom. Reporting on its year-end results today, the media giant said that its Media Networks division, of which MTV Games is a member, saw revenues sink 6 percent to $2.33 billion during the October-December quarter. Viacom noted that it saw a 37 percent decline in ancillary revenues to $290 million, saying the slip "was driven primarily by lower sales of Rock Band bundles."

Though the Harmonix-developed franchise saw no main installment in the series last year, MTV Games did release Lego Rock Band and The Beatles: Rock Band. Notably, The Beatles: Rock Band was initially announced with Limited Edition bundles that contained look-alike instruments for $250. However, two weeks before launch, retailers also began to list Special Value Edition bundles with standard Rock Band peripherals for $160.

As part of its third-quarter earnings report, Viacom expressed enthusiasm over The Beatles: Rock Band's "strong" start, though it also noted that the franchise was not profitable during the quarter. Having launched in September, the game had sold 1 million units by the first week of December--a figure that was not enough to prevent layoffs at Harmonix.

As for the rest of Viacom, the media conglomerate saw revenues decline 7 percent on the year to $13.62 billion. Net earnings stood at $1.56 billion, up 5 percent year-over-year. The Media Networks segment--which also includes TV networks, such as BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon--posted revenues of $8.29 billion, down 5 percent from the previous year. The group's operating income slipped 3 percent year-over-year to $3.12 billion.

During the October-December quarter, Viacom's sales reached $4.1 billion, a 3 percent year-over-year decline. Net earnings for the three-month period rose 43 percent to $663 million. Viacom attributed the performance to its Filmed Entertainment segment, specifically Paramount Pictures.

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50 comments
snake3rules
snake3rules

@CaptainHerlock, wow, way to grab on to the only shred of factual rebuttal you could ... what I said is still valid and comes from someone with a brain, thus the nearly even spread of speople who agree with me. I never said the beatles werent a great band, and I was off by a couple years (first real success was 62 despite forming in 57)... but what I said was true... the chances this would grab a teenager attention is slim... the chances it grabs a pre-teen, even less .... these are FACTS, learn to deal with them

Pato311
Pato311

I don't care if they ever put out another game, it's all about the music to me. As long as they can keep good DLC coming, it's all good.

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

sounds like they're gonna stop milking this genre, sounds good.

CaptainHerlock
CaptainHerlock

@snake3rules Anyone with a brain wouldn't make that statment. And if you did have one you'd know that the Beatles are from the SIXTIES.

lhscouchmonster
lhscouchmonster

@xanderzane good point about people already having the expensive bundles. you would expect profits to start dropping off dramatically since everyone has the instruments now. they should have planned for that.

simmonsgsmooth
simmonsgsmooth

I aggre DLC is the way forward, 50% of the songs on rock band or guitar hero arnt that good. Beatles rock band was done very well, but the gameplay hasn't changed since rock band one three years ago. If they want to sell more instruments, they should redo them and also change the gameplay a bit. i just hope they dont stop making the games because 90% of my ps time is spent on rock band and ghero.

XanderZane
XanderZane

I agree with "threedown". They kept bringing out instructment bundles that ranged from $149 to $250 and if you already bought it once, chances are, you weren't going to buy another bundle like that. All they really needed to do was release for song packs as DLC for $5-$10 and they would have been all set. I'm sure the loses weren't all from Rock Band. MTV Games and Viacom lost money in other areas as well. Lessons learned... hopefully.

threedown
threedown

most people who enjoy these games already have more than enough instruments. they expect people to keep buying new guitar or drum controllers every game??? they think because they made a TON of money one year, that theyre going to to keep on making that much every year after. give me a break, this isnt news

gnbfd
gnbfd

soo...instead of losing money because of the **** they have like Transformers 2, MTV, and Nickelodeon, they lose it on the best music game of the year? Wow people are stupid.

Savvy30039
Savvy30039

It's not so much about the music games being drastically less popular I think. It's just that everyone who would buy the instrument sets has already done so by now. When people are spending hundreds of dollars less per game, of course there's going to be a decrease in revenue.

Trogeton
Trogeton

more dlc..well stop and think the average dlc is 160 ms points and for a pack cost 800 that is 10 bucks.. for 5 songs.. wow I can tell you this.. I would rather pay 60 bucks for 60 songs other that than 60 bucks for 40.. dlc is a COMPLETE ripoff.. duh that is just stupid.. if you think about it a new game is cheaper.. think before you act.. that is one of the best mottos in life. if you look at it.. you get alot more from a new game than for just simple dlc. at least a new game has new features and achievments

ckat609
ckat609

What the hell do these guys need to realize that we want DLC instead of full games?!?!?!?!?!?! I think its more profitable for them. No need for discs, printed material, plastic boxes... plus... they release 5-10 songs every week!!!! Damn... talk about stupid!

Cricket_Sloat
Cricket_Sloat

@jrhawk42 its sad how few consumers realize the truth in that. it never ceases to amaze me that people can continually shell out tons of money on each the endless sequels of guitar hero. the formula is so simple a baby could have come up with it: add a couple of superficial new additions with a new set of songs and sell it as a brand new game. yet by some disgusting miracle players think, wow i can play as Kurt Cobain, or the beatles in the next one! that is so worth another 50-ish $! and thus the cycle continues. just to be clear, i dont hate rhythm games (I really like rockband and GH). just the monotonous beast they have become

ItsEvolution
ItsEvolution

"maybe they should make more games and stop focusing so much on DLC" AKA the exact opposite of what gamers want.

Trogeton
Trogeton

well it's because ms get soo much money off that DLC and the games hardly get anything.. I mean the download content alone cost more than ALL rockband games put together.. maybe they should make more games and stop focusing so much on DLC

dragonmaster335
dragonmaster335

I don't get how they've reported losses because of RB...there's been NON-STOP DLC for over 2 years now, how the hell is that not making enough profit for them? Is Harmonix/Viacom only making a tiny tiny fraction of what the DLC costs or something??

chibi-acer
chibi-acer

I'm not sure if this is a legitmate complaint, or even a surprise. Were they expecting to get the same total sales as previous years with no new hardware offering? And if the sale of the ridiculously expensive (though somewhat worth it) hardward bundles are the only way for them to bring in significant revenue then they need to rethink their business model, because gamers will only stand for it for so long.

snake3rules
snake3rules

who could've guessed music from the 50's, no matter how famous or significant, wouldnt interest 10 year olds ... oh wait, everybody with a brain.

VolcanoMan001
VolcanoMan001

Well, whaddya know, if you saturate the market then you will end up suffocating and killing it. Big surprise.

jadefury27
jadefury27

Rock band can also be blamed for douche bags acting like they can play an actual instrument when they can't. and for 9 year olds butchering classics like the beatles.

iamnessie
iamnessie

Sorry Viacom that Rock Band isn't Jersey Shore, iCarly or other garbage they usually produce.

glaceya
glaceya

I think the gaming industry have to uderstand that they can be harmed by market saturation like any other industry. it also reduces a games exclusivity if you flood the market different versions of the same game.

mrzero1982pt2
mrzero1982pt2

@enoslives7 better watch out!!!! viacom (which owns mtv) OWNS GAMESPOT now!!!! keep on bashin em, they will hack your ip address, find you, strap you to a chair and make you watch jersey shore, teen mom and the real world until you become part of the bandwagoning machine known as mtv!

im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

Wtf did they expect to happen with the myriad of titles that hit stores in the past two years alone! I mean really? I wish companies would understand how and WHY their products become hits when they do, because nobody had ever seen anything like Guitar Hero so naturally everybody gravitated to it like fly paper. But when you take that same product and put them in happy meal toys, i-phone apps, the DS has it's own version for cryin' out loud!, people will not only tire of seeing that product or playing it, but almost be sickened by the sight! DLC would have sufficed, there was no need to make actual software but to the developers defense I am sure they released hard disks to promote more sales of guitars and epuipment, plus for your average non-gamer but daily guitar rocker, maybe they don't even know what DLC is? Either way, I equate the whole thing to seeing a Viper on the street. I still gawk everytime I see one, but if they were everywhere all day everyday I probably would care a lot less when they were around.

jrhawk42
jrhawk42

The "music/rhythm game" genre has grown stale. The gameplay is essentially the same as guitar hero when it was released 4 years ago. The added instruments was a temporary boost, but basically it's the same game different input. I was hoping for something new when RB beatles came out. Many of the reviews said it was greatly innovative, but that was just wrong. Just a new coat of paint on an old car. This is pretty much the downfall of the genre. It needs a change in gameplay, but no one will risk putting out something drastically different so the genre will diminish into the niche market.

thorughfire
thorughfire

the flaw with GH and RB is that they are fun but whats the point of buying virtually the same game with a different setlist for 60 bucks when you can enjoy the one you have now. I think its a great idea to trim the amount of games they release a year but id love to see great setlist and improvements to the game.Lets get some new custom characters and sick areas to play with.Id love to see a college football type thing where the Audience effects your performance.The better the Audience then the easiest it is to hit the notes and vise versa.

hajjjustin
hajjjustin

i guess the market has just been flodded with the music games and people are looking for something new.

HappyApryl
HappyApryl

@wiiplay1 I know they can't add more notes than are actually in the game. But thats kinda my point. The song's offered no real challenge in incentive to try hard like the other Rock Band titles did. So it was easy and simple, and laid back. Which my household found extremely boring. We like laid back once in a while, but the entire tracklist was laid back. We love The Beatles as a band, we knew every song on the tracklist accept maybe 2 or 3. I think we would've bought it had it been able to download the songs into the Rock Band playlist. That way we could play a song or two when we just wanted to jam a little with beginners. I can only hope that when GreenDay comes they wont make the same mistake of not allowing download to to the HDD. I mean, how much GreenDay can you stand one after another.

force_user1975
force_user1975

Beatles Rockband didn't do bad. I am not sure what there projections were but that game was flying off shelves and I had a hard time getting it myself. I think maybe they put too much expectations on the game. Plus it was a bit expensive for the casual fan or Rhythm game fan. It was a great game and a lot of fun in my opinion.

colejd
colejd

Why release 1-2 new games when they could just release alot of new DLC for the games already out.

VenomRitual
VenomRitual

and yet they are going to release green day rock band. O_o seriously any GS user could be a better executive at MTV Games.

wooooode
wooooode

Wow they will only release 2 rhythm games this year, maybe they should have made a better game like Rockband instead of 15 Guitar Heroes.

Ethan111111
Ethan111111

wait.. no Beatles rockband DLC!! just because they arnt making enough money!! selfish Jerks.

Taegre
Taegre

So Viacom's losses have everything to do with the sales of an otherwise critically successful rhythm game and nothing to do with the fact that Viacom has slowly but surely butchered MTV and Nickelodeon networks?

syedzaim
syedzaim

Lol this is what you get when teaming up with MTV. The channel that practically destroyed music. If Rock Band wants to compete with Guitar Hero they better start making the game more challenging cause RB is way to easy. And oh god the avatars/instruments in the game look so freaking ugly. Really every avatar/"musician" in the game looked like some posuer idiot. They're uber ugly. Compare them to the GH avatars and GH avatars look WAY better.

jcloverboy
jcloverboy

If The Beatles game was a disappointment I wish them luck with Green Day. I can't even make up a 10 song track pack in my mind that would be profitable for a mainstream audience. I'm sure they have their hardcore fans, but how many copies of that title do they really think will sell.

HPdrummer
HPdrummer

This is them saying "no more Beatles rock band DLC" =(

wiiplay1
wiiplay1

@HappyApryl How are they going to make it tougher? Add more notes than their are? Sure, they do that sometimes. But this is The Beatles. Obviously they wanted to keep it the same. They couldn't just make it tougher.

Misfit119
Misfit119

Actually the strong sales claim wasn't a fib, they just didn't mention that the 250 bundle wasn't selling. Like at all. However the game disc versions did sell pretty well, especially at the stores by me where they were out of stock for awhile. But you could always get the game if you wanted the instruments too! But no one did.

coldsauce09
coldsauce09

this means a lot of good games are coming out since 2009 that people realized how much money they were wasting on some milking franchise.. took them 2 yrs to realize that... and so i only need 1 rhythm game to appeal to the chix out there and its rockband, it never gets old with all the available dlc on PSN why would i need to buy another music rhythm game if i already have one instead il go buy demon's souls, ME2 and many good games out there... screw activision!!

TheCyborgNinja
TheCyborgNinja

Babyboomers usually aren't gamers. I'm amazed Beatles RB sold as well as it did.

enoslives7
enoslives7

MTV is the grand-daddy of all epic fails.

spoonthemoose
spoonthemoose

see this is what happens when you inundate a market with the same product but with minor differences...activision learned this and next on this list is going to be MAC with the iPad

HappyApryl
HappyApryl

We didn't buy The Beatles because it was not possible to download the song's to the harddrive and play them in the rock band 2. That was a huge mistake in their part. We only buy the stuff that we can add to the Rock Band 2 list. The Beatles was way too easy too, we tried it at Bestbuy since they had it on display. We love The Beatles music, but we think it was a wrong choice as far as challenge since their songs instrumentals are generic.

cajunstrike
cajunstrike

Figured previous 'strong' sales claim with no sales numbers for The Beatles: Rock Band was somewhat curious...