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Viacom To Sell Rock Band Creator Harmonix 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-for-the-next-fad dept.
UgLyPuNk tips news that Harmonix, the game developer behind Rock Band and the early Guitar Hero games, will be sold by parent company Viacom, signaling the media conglomerate's exit from the console game market. Quoting Wired: "The news is yet another ominous sign for the music-game business, which exploded seemingly overnight in 2005 with the release of Guitar Hero. ...sales have been in free fall since the dizzying heights of 2008, with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock moving only 86,000 copies in its first week... Thus far in calendar year 2010, the balance sheet seems to show that Harmonix has been a $300 million liability for Viacom. And it doesn’t look like Viacom believes in the long-term future of music games. With any luck, the company will find a buyer that can help Harmonix grow, but it’s hard to imagine a better partner in the music biz than MTV."
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Viacom To Sell Rock Band Creator Harmonix

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I blame them and MTV for killing America.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by guyminuslife (1349809)

      Is this supposed to be the new "Fuck News Corp"? Because I'm gonna say, Rupert Murdoch is still way eviller than Sumner Redstone.

  • Music business? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by haystor (102186) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:41AM (#34204452)

    I would imagine some partner in the music business would be better than partnering with MTV.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Exactly. The "M" in "MTV" hasn't stood for "music" in at least 10 or 12 years, if not longer than that. These days it stands for "moron."
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sorak (246725)

        Exactly. The "M" in "MTV" hasn't stood for "music" in at least 10 or 12 years, if not longer than that. These days it stands for "moron."

        In their defense, "16 and pregnant hero" would have never sold. They had to try the music thing.

      • MTV?!?! !QQ! You are spelling it wrong... it is spelled EMPTY-V!

        Peace Out!

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      Fender has a lot of money and a preexisting relationship with Harmonix...

  • I'd buy these games if I didn't have to spend hundreds to get the peripherals for them. Yeah, I've played using a PS3 controller, but this is really their downfall. Each new version of Rock Band and Guitar Hero gets more outrageous. I've been a drummer, I wasn't so hot at it, but I do know that any sort of skills you develop with these games are pointless for playing actual music and it doesn't matter how advanced these games get. They are just money pits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cutegigi (1246884)
      well... I dont think being very good in driving game will make you any good driving in real life either...
      • by socsoc (1116769)
        How much does steering wheel cost you? $40?
        • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:47AM (#34205580)

          How much does steering wheel cost you? $40?

          And how much does a guitar controller for these games cost you?

          You don't HAVE to buy all the peripherals. Just like you don't have to buy the pedal and shifter controller to go with your car game. Shocking that the more you try to accurately emulate real life, the more expensive it gets.

      • A realistic enough driving game might.

      • Yes, it can, but not if you play Need for Speed or Burnout. A game like rFactor, for example, simulates "the relationship between slip angle, self aligning torque and cornering force" just for tires.

        The difference is that Rock Band and the likes aren't simulators.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by somersault (912633)

          Seeing as tyres are the most important part of the simulation, I'm pretty sure all games do that. The self aligning torque is presumably only really important when you have a force feedback steering wheel, but games have been doing that for years too.

          I learned to drive rear wheel drive cars in computer games. I now have a rear wheel drive car IRL and the reactions I've learned in game do carry over fine to the real car for controlling power oversteer etc.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        well... I dont think being very good in driving game will make you any good driving in real life either...

        you're completely and totally wrong. if I were not so lazy I would track down the article where they took some of the world's best computer racing drivers to the track and they posted quite good times and had excellent grasp of fundamentals. Anecdotally, my driving improved significantly after playing Gran Turismo, which included a booklet which concisely explained proper driving technique. Actually, playing video games with light guns substantially improves first-time-out target shooting as well. Indeed, t

    • by ZackSchil (560462)

      The drumming skills are not too bad. The keyboard skills on Rockband 3 aren't so bad either. It's hard to screw up when the controller is an actual keyboard and the gems coming at you are the actual piano roll for the song that's playing. And the game teaches you scales, proper form, etc. Not sure about the new "pro guitar" thing, as I've not seen the controller or anything.

      • by socsoc (1116769)
        Glad to hear it's come along. The scales and piano roll really surprise me. Guess it's no longer just hitting colored pads on a drums (or buttons on the neck) to a beat that doesn't even come close to matching the actual song.
        • by somersault (912633) on Friday November 12, 2010 @06:36AM (#34205116) Homepage Journal

          Guess it's no longer just hitting colored pads on a drums (or buttons on the neck) to a beat that doesn't even come close to matching the actual song.

          If you play the drums in "expert" difficulty then the beat is usually 100% the same as the actual song. In one song in Rock Band it seemed like you had to play the hi-hat in double time compared to what the actual song was playing but that's about the only difference I noticed.

          Even expert guitar is usually very close to the same rhythm as the actual song. It's only on the easier difficulties that they take out notes. I actually find some of the songs more difficult to play on expert guitar in these games than I do on a real guitar, because the fingering is more awkward in the game compared to just holding a barre or power chord and sliding your hand up and down the neck.

          • by danomac (1032160)

            If you play the drums in "expert" difficulty then the beat is usually 100% the same as the actual song. In one song in Rock Band it seemed like you had to play the hi-hat in double time compared to what the actual song was playing but that's about the only difference I noticed.

            In addition to this, Rock Band 3's Pro Drums Expert mode with the kit is extremely close to playing real drums. The pads are closer together of course, but if you manage to get the "hang" of that, transitioning to a real drum set wo

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          My father in law was/is the LITERAL guitarist for a couple of tracks that made it onto Guitar Hero.

          He can't play the game. His problem is that the 'notes' don't match up to the song, and the disparity is so great that he is so used to playing the actual notes, that trying to 'reduce' what he would do on an actual guitar is not possible.

          It is the weirdest thing to listen to the guy grab the guitar next to his couch, and play the actual song, or listen to his old performances OF the song, and then watch as h

          • by delinear (991444)
            My girlfriend recently got GH6 and I played this for the first time this week and this is exactly right. It's quite a frustrating experience when the notes are even slightly off the beat, to the degree that some songs are easier to play if you actually ignore the music and just use the visual cues on the screen (I've not gone so far as to turn the sound off but I bet it wouldn't negatively impact and may even positively impact performance on some songs). Not sure if Rock Band does this better, but the annoy
            • Calibration? (Score:2, Informative)

              by pryoplasm (809342)

              Did the parent try calibrating the system? There is a known problem of lag varying from setup to setup, as all tv's, sound systems, and cables are not the same....

              It helps a lot, really

              • by danomac (1032160)
                Yep, things like 5.1 surround and a LCD TV can introduce a LOT of lag. I never had problems on the old CRT + TV speakers.
            • by sarahbau (692647)

              I think Rock Band does this better than Guitar Hero. I can calibrate both games, but Guitar Hero never has the notes on beat, so I have to play by eye rather than by ear. In Rock Band, I look at the notes as they appear rather than when they pass the "hit area," and play them by ear.

      • by kevinmenzel (1403457) <kevinmenzelNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday November 12, 2010 @03:25AM (#34204570)
        The "real" controller, the one most people are waiting for, won't come out until March 1, 2011. That'd be the actual Squire Strat that works with Rock Band. I know a lot of people holding off buying RB3 Pro-Mode DLC for a while, until around when this guitar comes out, and some are even waiting for a while to get the game. Hopefully stuff gets sorted out quickly with the future of the franchise, because a lot of people ARE still invested in the game, and the company, but the lack of details is making gamers more nervous than geeks were when Oracle bought Sun... because Rock Band actually does do a fair bit in terms of building transferable skills to real instruments - with Pro Drums, Pro Keys, and eventually Pro Guitar (and with Pro Guitar right now to an extent with their "pro controller" - good for hand positions... but not great). And as a drummer myself - the drumming skills really aren't bad. I play on a stock RB2 kit, with the cymbal expansions - and even though my kit in real life lays out different, has a different number of parts, etc - Rock Band still holds you to a tempo, and builds limb independence. It's not everything you need to be a good drummer, but it helps - and the stock pedal, though nothing like the real thing, is actually pretty good at building leg muscle and if you can heel-toe on that, you can do it even better on the real thing. So... yeah.
        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
          Why not just buy a damn guitar, man? With as much effort as you put into this, you could do it for real. I know, I know, stupid idea, I shouldn't have even contradicted the zeitgeist of USA 2010.
          • by Anrego (830717) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @04:06AM (#34204686)

            Learning guitar takes a lot of patience, especially early on.

            I think that's why you don't see guitar a lot in school.. most instruments you can get people transitioning between a few notes pretty quickly, then can get everyone together and honk out "twinkle twinkle little star". With guitar this takes a little longer. There are a lot of fundamentals you need before you can progress to anything beyond very simple tunes.. and getting these fundamentals can be very tedious.

            Wrapping up the hours and hours of scales and building muscle memory in a game might encourage some people to pick up music who otherwise wouldn't have the patience. Personally (as a non elitist type) I think this is a good thing.

            • Just reminds me of a elementary school concert I saw in Hamburg Germany. Almost all the kids were dressed prim and proper, girls in yellow dresses and boys in suits and ties, then you had the guitarist with long hair and ripped jeans. Hearing trombones and guitars at the same time was kind of cool though.
            • What, clicking buttons to match the colors onscreen isn't very tedious?
          • by Buggz (1187173) on Friday November 12, 2010 @04:48AM (#34204772)
            The Fender Squier is a real guitar. On a promotional event a guy had it hooked up to an amplifier while also being connected to the game, so you could actually hear his playing while the tune also rolled in Rock Band 3. Check the (rather cool) demonstration/teaser video on Fenders website [fender.com].

            In other words, if you go for the Fender Squier, Rock Band 3 will function as a learning tool. That games career mode is more about challenges rather than just plauying at venues. Different difficulty levels (where the hardest setting equals the way the guitarist is actually playing the current song), tutorials and the ability to slow down sections at will makes it possible to get down to business learning how a guitar produces sound. If you take the time, you will be able to learn to play. The only thing the game doesn't teach specifically is technique, but with the songs including (and the game supporting) hammerons/pulloffs, left hand muting, open chords, arpeggios, sustained notes and slides, the techniques will come eventually as long as one is eager and willing to learn.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by Buggz (1187173)
              I forgot to mention one more thing; all the controllers (keyboard, drums, button guitars) are made by MadCatz except the Squier, which is made by Fender. It is a guitar with midi-support and some extra electronics so the game can determine where the player is holding his fingers.
            • by edxwelch (600979)

              That's awesome... but why did they wait so long to bring out this controller? It should have been available from day one.

              • by Buggz (1187173)
                Apologies for the pathetically late response, but that's actually a good question. I once saw a video interview/demonstration and I can't recall the exact reasoning for the guitar being late, but they said something along the lines of there being two ways to create a peripheral: fast or thorough. They've done it fast before and don't want to do that mistake again, so they'll rather spend some extra time making sure the guitar meets whatever quiality standards they're aiming for.

                What they need another half
          • by houghi (78078)

            That can be said about almost every game out there. From boardgames, over toys to computer games.

            They are not real. That is the whole purpose of them.

            • They are not real. That is the whole purpose of them.

              You haven't had a look at all the "pro" instruments in the latest Rock Band then.

              Sure Guitar Hero was a lot more fun that I expected even when it was only pressing buttons in time to the music, but I really loved the drums because it's almost exactly like playing real drums. Now with the keyboard and guitar controllers you also get to learn real keyboard and guitar parts. It's more fun than just learning a song on guitar by yourself because you get a backing track to play along to, and you get graded on you

              • by sorak (246725)

                And I'm sure that making it a game had given it a more favorable learning curve and made it easier for some people to find the hour a day needed to get good at it.

          • by Peeteriz (821290)

            Playing RB is much more fun than practicing guitar, even if you have one and play in some tiny band every week.

          • by Velex (120469)

            Why not just buy a damn guitar, man?

            I did buy a damn guitar, you insensitive clod! (Got it used for $150.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Why not just buy a damn guitar, man? With as much effort as you put into this, you could do it for real. I know, I know, stupid idea, I shouldn't have even contradicted the zeitgeist of USA 2010.

            To misuse an old spice quote. Experience is everything.

            So do you go to war zones instead of playing Call of Duty? Did you go out and buy an F1 racer instead of playing that racing game? Did you post on Slashdot instead of interacting with a person in real life?

          • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:56AM (#34205644) Homepage Journal

            Why not just buy a damn guitar, man? With as much effort as you put into this, you could do it for real.

            You missed the whole point, and thus your comment is a gigantic waste of time. It *is* a guitar. It's a Squier Stratocaster, aka a basic Fender guitar, with a MIDI interface. I don't know if you've ever seen the Yamaha MIDI pickup but it's like $200 used and it blows. We're talking about a whole guitar with a MIDI interface for $250. On Pro mode, you have to play all the notes. That means that you can buy the guitar, move up through the modes and learn to play a real guitar, because you'll be playing real songs on a real guitar.

            In addition, RB3 also supports two other real instruments, keyboards and drums. You can buy the MIDI connection kit and then connect your actual, professional MIDI keyboard and drums. I have a Casio with basic teaching features which are horribly annoying to use. I have a 360. With RB3 and the MIDI kit, I can have the computer teach me to play the keyboard, starting with basic rhythm games and working my way up to playing actual parts, all on my real keyboard.

            I know, I know, stupid idea, I shouldn't have even contradicted the zeitgeist of USA 2010.

            No, it was a stupid comment, because you don't know what you're talking about but posted one anyway.

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            From what I've heard (going on just rumour mill here), the Squire Strat Pro-controller IS essentially doing that. You will literally control the game in EXACTLY the same manner as playing a real guitar, to the point that I have heard that the controller will have an amp output and can be connected to a standard amp and actually played as a guitar.

            As someone who DOES own several real guitars and can play them OK-ish but would like a fun way to practice some things, I think if they can make the game good eno

          • Epic win is closer in GH than real life, you know. :)
            http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html [ted.com]

          • With as much effort as you put into this, you could do it for real.

            Clearly spoken like someone who has never picked up a new video game and beaten it within a week - and then picked up a guitar and not mastered it in a week.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        I haven't tried their Pro Guitar either but I can say that as a bass player and a Fender man all my life that I royally suck on their "Fender Bass" and watching my guitarist on the Fender Strat he frankly isn't any better on that either. The "Feel" is just too far off and the game itself is more like Simon than playing an actual instrument, especially on some of the songs like Rush tunes where I alrady know how to play them and automatically want to climb the neck at the correct points. So if anything I'd s

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @03:53AM (#34204648)

      any sort of skills you develop with these games are pointless for playing actual music

      When did the point of any game become to prepare your for the real life equivalent (ok, there are actually some examples, but moving on..)

      We have flight games, driving games, a whole variety of sports and military games, however for some reason people hold music sacred. Learning to play a real instrument is a major endeavor that takes a lot of time and patience but (and I know this sounds kinda lame) brings a lifetime of joy. I am sure the same can be said about flying a plane, driving a race car, playing professional sports, etc.

      I play (real) guitar.. but I can still enjoy playing a fake plastic guitar with some friends (and copious beer). It's not the same as a jam session, but its not supposed to be.. it's a game!

      I think it's also worth noting that Rockband 3 is going to include some kind of modified (real) guitar to be used in professional mode. This might actually have teaching implications. The irony of it is that rock band might actually encourage people to learn a real instrument, rather than prevent them from doing so by providing a "close enough" experience (which I think is where a lot of the early hatred for rockband came from).

      • On deciding to become a drummer as my friends and I decided to start a band - I signed up for lessons etc. and then considered buying the WII rockband drumset as a way to get to practise the basics in a fun way before investing in a full drumkit... when I realized that the rockband drumkit would cost me as much as a pretty decent second hand drumkit, I decided to rather save up a bit and invest in a really good drumkit.

        Right now I'm tempted to go for an electric drumkit however, if only because being able t

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As a drummer I would recommend getting the real (acoustic) kit because the lower end electronic kits are just not going to give you the same feel and dynamics as an acoustic kit. Now I have messed with some of the higher end Roland kits, and they are amazing. They offer great feel and dynamics... but your gonna shell out at between 3 to 5 thousand dollars for the base models. For just the raw muscle memory, rudiment practice you can get a practice kit that consists of rubber pads or you can get rubber pads

          • As another drummer I would say avoid rubber electric drums. However a good compromise can be mainly rubber kit with a proper skinned Roland V-drum snare. It depends on the type of music you are playing but personally most of the intricate rolls and more delicate techniques that require a decent bounce are done on the Snare drum. I only really use the toms for the occasional fill.

      • I play (real) guitar.. but I can still enjoy playing a fake plastic guitar with some friends (and copious beer). It's not the same as a jam session, but its not supposed to be.. it's a game!

        yup... The original Guitar Hero 2 got me back into playing again... I found it easier to play my real bass than the GH in bass mode... since then I've got into guitar as it's pretty depressing playing bass on your own... and most bass solo pieces are just widdle fests up in the dusty end where you might as well be playi

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For the most part I agree with the whole "any sort of skills you develop are pointless for real music". As a drummer I was fairly impressed with the drums ability to simulate with 4 pads and a kick pedal a real drum set. I mean, yeah playing rock band is different than playing my real kit in the garage, however... playing the game on expert gives a basic sense of timing and coordination. Lots of the beats and fills you play in the game can be taken to the kit for real and will sound good. Will it make you t

    • by shish (588640)

      I do know that any sort of skills you develop with these games are pointless for playing actual music

      Have you seen the latest "pro" controllers? The pro keyboard is pretty much a standard MIDI keyboard; and the pro guitar, while not exactly a standard guitar, does seem to have the same number and layout of places to put your fingers

    • I've been a drummer, I wasn't so hot at it, but I do know that any sort of skills you develop with these games are pointless for playing actual music and it doesn't matter how advanced these games get.

      I'm a self taught drummer, and I have to say that playing Rock Band did improve my drumming noticeably. I started struggling with the necessary limb coordination about half-way into the set list, but after a couple of months of practice I completed every song in the game on Expert drums and had a lot more independent control of my limbs.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'd go out and sell stuff right now if I could play a real bass with RB3. Guitars are too small. Planning on getting the midi adapter and playing with my keyboard when the time comes (i.e. when it comes down some.)

    • by sorak (246725)

      If you keep your eyes peeled (or set a slickdeals.net alert) you can occasionally find deals on the stuff. When "Rock Band/Guitar Hero X+1" comes out, you can usually find "Rock Band/Guitar Hero X" on clearance somewhere for a much better deal.

    • You seem to have the same problem that my guitarist friend does - you seem to think that Guitar Hero is actually "How To Play Guitar: Playstation Edition". It's not, it's a game. Lots of people have fun playing it, never even considering that it could make them a better player on real instruments - why would it? It's just a game. The peripherals make some sense - the whole point of Guitar Hero is to imagine yourself as an amazing guitarist which is easier to do if the controller you're wielding is "axe"-sha

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Sure, it's not Rock Band with all of the various instruments, but at least the PS2 version of Guitar Hero was selling a while back (a year or two ago? I honestly don't remember how long) for $20 with guitar.. I am almost positive there were various other versions too, but I'm not sure about PS3 at the time for that price.

      Though as for the "pointless for playing actual music", that part has changed with the new Pro Mode in Rock Band 3. (BTW, I've never played Rock Band.)

      • by socsoc (1116769)
        You bought a PS2 game a year or two ago? I'd have thought that they would have paid you, rather than you paying for it.
        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          I'm still buying PS2 games (though will likely have a 'free' PS3 within a year from Sony credit card rewards).

          Especially for a game like guitar hero, what's the big difference? I don't think much.

  • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Friday November 12, 2010 @03:23AM (#34204560)

    What happened is that they exploited that genre to exhaustion.

    • Some might say that is the ominous scenario that those in the music game business would be fearing. If this move makes you fear for your job, knowing its because they've run that well dry isn't the comfort, that's the fear.

  • After all, there are only so many ways you can reinvent Simon.

    If you ask me what Simon is, that's just an example of how young you are. Or how old I am!

    • by delinear (991444)
      I get this too when I tell people it's just Simon [wikipedia.org] with a different controller, and that I was a dab hand at it back in the early 80's. Wow, was it really so long ago? I should really think about growing a lawn.
    • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:04PM (#34208058)

      Oh a Simon analogy! That's fresh and original!...

      On an extremely superficial level, it is like Simon... and that would be that they are both games that have several large brightly colored plastic buttons on an electronic device, where these buttons also happen to result in a tone. However, where are the rest of the similarities?

      However, if you insist on using superficial analogies in order to fool yourself into thinking you are insightful and/or belittling a game type that doesn't happen to be your taste, let me offer a few alternative analogies so you don't have to rely on the surprisingly cliche (for being so inaccurate) comparison of Simon.

      * Rock Band is nothing but a reinvented Space Invaders. Instead of the aliens scrolling horizontally and you have to shoot them before they land, they scroll vertically and you have to "shoot" them right as they land! It's basically just a vertical shooter with 5 cannons, right?

      * Rock Band is just a reinvented fighting game, without fighting characters! The defining characteristics to fighting games are simply responding having to hit buttons at the right timing, and pulling off combos effectively, right?

      * Rock Band is just a reinvented Tetris! All the player is doing is responding to various falling colored blocks, right?

      Why just stick to Rock Band style games?

      * StarCraft is nothing but a reinvented game of Risk!
      * World of WarCraft is nothing but reinventing NetHack!

      Being cynical and dismissive on the internet is fun!

  • This may lead to Tribe getting back together!

  • What does MTV have to do with music? Hell the M in MTV doesn't even stand for music anymore.
  • They are just schills for the RIAA anyway. Any destruction of anything related to the RIAA gets my stamp of approval.

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