[updated] Viacom selling Harmonix

Well, here's some news. 

Kotaku is reporting that Viacom, parent company of MTV and a host of other media outlets, is planning to sell off Harmonix, the music-game-development house responsible for the original Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and the new Dance Central. It's a bit surprising given the apparent success of Dance Central, but then less surprising when you consider the disappointing sales of the last few iterations of the Rock Band franchise - even though Rock Band 3 is the best installment yet - and of music games in general (Guitar Hero's sales are also way down in the last few years).

Practically speaking, this probably means less than it sounds like on its face. Expensive and niche-y though it may be, there is still a market for Rock Band (and though the numbers aren't in yet, people keep saying how Dance Central is sold out everywhere), and surely someone will purchase them, perhaps someone with some ties to the music industry. Maybe even Activision, who've put out the last few Guitar Hero games - that'd be awkward.

More on this as we hear it.

UPDATE: Harmonix's John Drake posted a statement on the Rock Band messageboard

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.

3:20 p.m. UPDATE: Drake continues and clarifies some ongoing questions about who will control Harmonix's IP in the future. Short version, Harmonix ultimately still owns all of its stuff, DLC will continue, nothing's going to change about the existing games, and stop asking whether or not Activision will be the buyers. I'm no MBA or anything, but I'm pretty sure it would behoove everyone to refrain from discussing specifics until the deal is done. Here's Drake:

Regarding potential publishers, it’s premature to discuss specific publishers at this time, though we look forward to working with Viacom to find the best home for our studio. Please keep speculation about that to a minimum in this conversation.

Many of you have asked about DLC. To be clear, our earlier statement that we will continue to support our existing franchises holds true and work at the studio is not affected by this announcement. RB DLC will continue unabated. We’re excited to confirm that The BeeGees are our next DLC pack.

Some of you have been chiming in about our different partners and what this announcement means for [the Fender Squier/Mad Catz Hardware/EA Distribution]. Those partnerships are unaffected by this announcement with regards to existing titles.

Most importantly, the Rock Band and Dance Central will continue to be worked on at Harmonix for the foreseeable future. We’re not leaving them behind.

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