Viacom To Sell Harmonix: What Now?

The big news today was the announcement that Viacom, who owns MTV and MTV Games, is planning to get out of the Rock Band business by selling off developer Harmonix. Naturally, this sent shockwaves through the gaming community, immediately kicking off speculation as to the future of the Rock Band and Dance Central games.

First, some quotes:

“Our decision to exit this business strategy is to focus on what we do best, and that’s creating world class entertainment … The console games business requires expertise we don’t have. For us, this is all about focus.”
– Viacom president and CEO Phillippe Dauman

“This morning’s announcement does not affect the ongoing work at the studio as we continue to support our existing franchises, Rock Band and Dance Central. As stated earlier, Viacom is in discussions with several potential buyers and will continue to fully support the business until a sale is completed.”
– Harmonix statement

Harmonix was acquired by Viacom in 2006 for the tidy sum of $175 million, and with sales of rhythm games declining rapidly, there’s an argument to be made that they’re looking to get out while excitement for Rock Band 3 and Dance Central, both of which have received outstanding critical reception, is high. The question on everyone’s mind, then, is: who would buy Harmonix?

Some have joked about the possibility of Harmonix reuiniting with Activision, who owns the Guitar Hero brand that Harmonix originated. EA has been a distribution partner for Rock Band from the beginning, WBIE published LEGO Rock Band, and other companies like Konami have ties to the rhythm genre that might make for an interesting fit.

But I think the more interesting question isn’t who, but why. Why would any of these companies buy Harmonix at a point when rhythm game sales are sinking so fast? The biggest strength of the Rock Band franchise right now is its library, and a potential sale could wreak havoc trying to re-license songs for future games.

So it’ll be fascinating to see where Harmonix ends up, and for how much. Will they be allowed to continue building this massive library and trying to teach people how to play real instruments, or could the Rock Band franchise as we currently know it soon come to an end?

Whatever happens, I suspect there’s one game that’ll soon get greenlit: Amplitude 2.