Viacom to sell Rock Band developer Harmonix

Media multinational announces plan to part with the studio, reclassify it as a "discontinued operation."


Rock Band 3

In the past two months Harmonix has released Rock Band 3 and Dance Central. Both music games won rapt reviews for their innovative features, but apparently that wasn't enough for parent company Viacom.

Viacom doesn't want to rock out any longer.
Viacom doesn't want to rock out any longer.

Embedded in its third-quarter financial report, issued today, Viacom announced its net income plummeted from $463 million to $189 million and that it plans to sell Harmonix. Further, the Boston-area developer will be henceforth known as a "discontinued operation." Unfortunately, the company did not provide further specifics as to the rationale behind selling Harmonix.

According to a post on the official Rock Band forums by Harmonix's community manager, Viacom's announcement "does not affect the ongoing work at the studio as we continue to support our existing franchises, Rock Band and Dance Central." According to Harmonix, although Viacom is currently engaged in discussions with multiple buyers, it will continue to support the studio.

Once a more financially successful genre, the music game field has since largely fallen by the wayside. September's Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock struck a sour note at retail, selling under 100,000 copies, and analysts are reassessing their outlooks based on the genre's downward trend.

Viacom is one of the largest media conglomerates on the planet. Its main ties are attached to film and television, where it owns properties like Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, and MTV.

For more on the two franchises' recent entries, check out GameSpot's review of Rock Band 3 and Dance Central.

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Avatar image for joeborg14

Sad day, I wonder who's gonna pick em up.

Avatar image for Keiner

If Rockband were to go out I would like it to end here before they do something dumb like GH. The Swan song for the RockBand series. The RockBoat has finally pulled into KickAss harbor. Lets all remember this adverture as we move on to actual instruments and make better music than the current crap out now.

Avatar image for MrHatnClogs

MTV is gonna regret this, I hope Harmonix keeps the path it's going on, just steadily release one sequel every other year with just once and a while a band themed game like the Green Day Rockband.

Avatar image for stEElyDaN909

They didn't even wait till Christmas....

Avatar image for SolanOcard

raahsnavj, do you really think 2.00 per song (or less if you buy a track pack bundle) is unreasonable? Some songs can go for 1.29 on itunes, and that is just royalties to the band/song rights holder. For Rockband and Guitar hero, the devlopers need to charge something for development costs, hence the .71 (or 1.01) mark-up. I have not seen data for Rock Band 3s sales yet. I am not surprised Guitar Hero 1345*10^8 didn't sell well. Too many games in a short time, and it is the INFERIOR franchise out of the two, and there was no wide appeal to the track list of the newest Guitar Zero. ROCK BAND FOREVER!

Avatar image for raahsnavj

The reason rock band isn't bigger is the music companies want too much in royalties. Beatles RB had potential, but the royalties to the Beatles was unreasonable. The fact people can't buy .50 songs in the RB DLC store is also the reason it has crumbled. Again the reason the prices are not reasonable is because of the music industries demands on royalties.

Avatar image for akiwak

What the big companies seem to be misunderstanding is that people will continue to buy bundled sets and collect all those fake plastic instruments. COME ON!!! Imagine even if I was the biggest fan of the genre and would buy every release, I would not have any room in my house...... I only got RB1 and those instruments still work :(

Avatar image for Mr_BillGates

Activision's business model: milk the crap out of a successful franchise and then telling its developers to **** off. So yeah, they are the ultimate problem in the gaming community.

Avatar image for Pete5506

Harmonix is a great studio, I wish them the best for the future

Avatar image for digi-demon

A karaoke machine is all some people crave...

Avatar image for DBZKING1234

The instruments were becoming realistic, defeating the entire point. I would rather buy a real instrument then play Rock Band 3 on Pro mode. Better to end it now, I'm getting sick of these games.

Avatar image for AuronAXE

Only one name is needed to describe this sad situation. Kotick.

Avatar image for wwonka666

I just bought Rock Band 3, it's more of the same. I do not plan to try the Pro Mode, I wish I had just waited until next week to buy NBA Jam.

Avatar image for Philly1UPer

@TheWickedEnd101 Not really, because most of us probably know how to play a real instrument and know how to create our own music and songs.

Avatar image for Flex1

In a few years the same news will apply to Call of Duty. Activision is trash.

Avatar image for Nosnitsttam

MORONS! absolute MORONS. there wouldn't BE a music genre without harmonix. They created guitar hero AND rock band. right now rock band is on track to actually cross the line from video game into actual musicianship. to drop them now is to kill them at their peak of creativity. activision is killing everything it touches. Kotick, you are a massive d*****bag for over saturating the market, without you they wouldnt have had to push so many games out.

Avatar image for TheWickedEnd101

haha it would be funny if microsoft bought it and rockband became an xbox 360 exclusive haha,ps3 fans would be so pissed :P

Avatar image for fLaMbOaStiN

They pumped way too many Music games into the market at once.. It was a new genre that needed some time to mature and grow, not re-releases every 3 months with a new cover on its title.. Either way i never got into the Rockband/Guitar Hero scene.

Avatar image for Garygok

Rock Band is my personal music game of choice. I really hope they stick around and put out quality like they have in the past. Admittedly though I never bough Beatles or Green Day and do agree that there is a bit of a saturation out there but keep offering fun songs and innovation (keyboard) and I will always be excited for music games. It saddens me to think that some people are tiring of the genre.

Avatar image for BuBsay

For the record, Rock Band basically has come out with a new game every year. (Rock Band 1 in 2007, Rock Band 2 in 2008, Rock Band Beatles, and Lego Rock Band in 2009, and Rock Band 3 in 2010), so in 4 years Harmonix came out with 5 games, kinda oversaturation, but not so bad. Coming out with a new game every year isn't so bad. It's the fact that from the 2008 to 2009 alone, Neversoft (Well, Activision actually, as Neversoft said the reason they came out with so many was due to Activision splitting their teams up and pushing them to create new games as fast as possible) came out with: 1: Guitar Hero Aerosmith 2:Guitar Hero: On Tour 3: Guitar Hero World Tour 4: Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades 5: Guitar Hero Metallica 6: Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits 7: Guitar Hero Smash Hits 8: Guitar Hero 5 9: DJ Hero 10: Band Hero 11: Guitar Hero Van Halen So... 5 games in 4 years, as opposed to 11 in 2 years? In short, Activision is doing a very good job at single handedly driving every single game series into the ground that they've ever touched. Except for WoW, Starcraft and Diablo, Which Blizzard has specifically banned Bobby Kotick from having any input on. P.S. Yes the rumors are true, Bobby Kotick, is indeed a reincarnation of the devil.

Avatar image for x-2tha-z

Activision killed the music genre. If they keep milking the Call of Duty franchise, the could end up killing the FPS genre, too.

Avatar image for Stedmister

I say go indipendant

Avatar image for blackbeltjones

I like both GH and RB... my only problem with GH is they release a new titile every 6 months and they leave the people who purchased their previous game behind by not allowing them to DL the new songs. I will stick by Harmonix and Rock Band....although they dropped the ball on pro mode for guitar by not having either the Mustang or Squier available for launch...Hopefully this doesnt affect the Squier release. I prefer Gretsch guitars but if this works great with RB3 I will break down and buy the Fender.... BTW Dance Central is alot of fun... I was not expecting that!! Good Luck Harmonix

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@WolfeStedro You make a valid point, but it has been documented that the publishers (Viacom, Activision) bank on new package deal sales. The $100-160 level purchases. About 6 months ago I remember reading a story here on Gamespot about how Activision was disappointed in Guitar Hero underperforming in sales, and some of that was attributed to software sales instead of moving sets of instruments. I am not knocking the category, just noticing. Beatles Rock Band was the peak of this category, and since then (both) publishers have been disappointed.

Avatar image for mattg90520

man, we could use a break from the yearly updates to these franchises. unless they give us something new like dj hero or dance central, dont waste the plastic and make it purely digital.

Avatar image for WolfeStedro

@PixelAddict: People don't have to buy new instruments every time they get a new music game. I'm sure there are less "plastic instruments" than there are "plastic controllers," which people buy on a regular basis.

Avatar image for BlackDevil99

good luck harmonix! we love you!

Avatar image for Cwagmire21

While personally, I did get tired of it, I'm wondering if Guitar Hero's issues are more with having a new one every 6 months rather than people necessarily being tired of them. If we had a new Guitar Hero every 2 years, I think people would still be playing it.

Avatar image for BigC43

Come on EA or Microsoft. This would be a fantastic purchase for either one.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

Gotta wonder how many people are left out here without plastic instruments. And those who already have one (or two) set(s) of instruments cannot be waking up in the morning thinking about adding new ones for well over 100 bucks.

Avatar image for parrot_of_adun

lol viacom... You make just a little worse.

Avatar image for Legend002

Rumor say Microsoft for a few days now.

Avatar image for Heshertonfist

Not surprising considering the whole rhythm game genre is sinking and Harmonix only makes rhythm games.

Avatar image for Phil-teh-Pirate

Its stopped selling? I'm not surprised theres been over 20 or so music games that follow the exact same premise since 2008. Sequels they've released would have been better released as free patches, but giving the ability to buy alot more new songs at 99p each... You want to play that brand new keyboard controller you've just bought? Well good, here's a free patch, but you'll need to buy as many songs as you want on the PSN / Marketplace to actually play them. I believe this would have been a better way... Instead of Guitar Hero World of Rock, Rock Band - The Darkness or whatevers going to come out next.

Avatar image for ps2fatboy

i loved guitar hero whne it first came out i was hooked,then rock band came out with more instruments ,but i think the sales are down because after awhile ya just pretending ,i admire the makers of rockband trying to teach on hard mode to actually play but maybe a little too late

Avatar image for TerrorRizzing

just too many games in the genre... I mean how many times do we need to spend another $50 bucks on a few more songs?

Avatar image for liam-G

@firehawk998 you are incorrect, Bobbys bussiness strategy be it short sighted has earned activision 100's of millions of dollars since he's taken over the company.

Avatar image for VidGamAnonymous

Viacom will regret this decision

Avatar image for emoticedmar

I sure hope no one mess with the capabilities of Harmonix skills, who ever buys it :)

Avatar image for TheBuck27

I'm surprised the music genre stayed so popular as long as it did, especially with the market saturation. It was a fad. I own all of two Guitar Hero games and haven't really felt the need to buy anymore. After the novelty wore off, I barely played it.

Avatar image for cptpeg

I've mentioned this before but one of the reasons RB3 isn't selling as well as it should is because the shops are doing are crap job pushing it out to the customers. Just like RB2 I struggled to find this in most of my game shops shops, 5 out of the 6 where I live don't have it in stock and the one that did only had 2 game boxes on the shelf and it wasn't even in the new release section. When I asked about the keyboard I was told they didn't stock them instore you have to order online. Whereas GH WOW has a massive point of sale display at the entrance of the store with about 15 guitar and 40 game boxes. RB games are always better than GH but they don't seem to get the same attention for some reason.

Avatar image for P90E21

YEs but Rock band to me is much better then GH and they dont try to shove it down our troughs by releasing another game almost every year.

Avatar image for railroberto2007

calm down errbody we all know that EA will end up with them, they publish them anyways. cant see much of a change coming from this

Avatar image for firehawk998

Lets pray that Kotick doesnt buy Harmonix because the last thing you need is the man who ruined GH and Tony Hawk games ruining Rock Band with his horrible business policy and also Rock Band 3 is a much better game in terms of quality to any Guitar Hero Game out there.

Avatar image for toddx77

I do have to agree with the fact activision ruined the music genre. The fact that so many Guitar Hero games have released, let alone the amount that were relaesed in 2009. Harmonix may have released a rockband every year but atleast last year they had beatles rock band which a break and made rock band 2 last longer.

Avatar image for nparks

I blame Activision. Thanks, Bobby Kodick.

Avatar image for machew100

Guitar hero was all the craze a few years ago, it's dead. Trends die, just accept it and stop trying to squeeze money out of a dead trend.

Avatar image for poordude1089

Well this can go well, and this can go really really bad. If Activision gets its hands on HMX, it may well be the nail in the music genre's coffin.

Avatar image for yaba

It was a dead horse anyway.

Avatar image for y0ur_grandma

Viacom if you do this Activision will rip their heart out.