EA not interested in buying Harmonix

Publisher's CEO likens theoretical purchase to catching a falling knife, says it would look like EA was "doubling down on yesterday."


Rock Band 3
Dance Central

When Viacom announced plans to sell off Dance Central developer Harmonix earlier this month, speculation rose about possible purchasers. One oft-suggested suitor was Electronic Arts, distributor of Harmonix's Rock Band games through its EA Partners program.

Yesterday, all Harmonix's problems seemed so far away…
Yesterday, all Harmonix's problems seemed so far away…

EA CEO John Riccitiello put an end to that particular piece of speculation this week in an interview with Bloomberg. The executive told the news service his company was moving in a different strategic direction for a number of reasons, one of them being the way investors would perceive such an investment in the flagging rhythm genre.

"We're still out of favor," Riccitiello said. "Moves that look like I'm doubling down on yesterday would make it harder still to convince investors that tomorrow is the Promised Land."

After peaking at $1.66 billion in US retail sales over 2008, rhythm game sales deteriorated to $876 million in 2009. This year is shaping up even worse for the genre, totaling just $158 million through September.

EA's most recent acquisitions have been in upwardly trending areas, as the company purchased social game developer Playfish just over a year ago and iOS publisher Chillingo last month. As for Harmonix, Riccitiello suggested that someone would take a chance on picking up the studio.

"I'm sure some smart investor will buy the business feeling that they can catch a falling knife," Riccitiello said, "but more people have been cut trying to catch falling knives than have benefitted from getting the timing exactly right."

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