Who Will Buy Harmonix?

Who Will Buy Harmonix?

Poor Harmonix. The company was the (Guitar) hero of the latter half of the Aughts, and now it’s peering out at the world with wet puppy-dog eyes, begging for a buyer. Whereas it initially looked like Harmonix might go home with EA, that’s become an unlikely scenario: In an interview with Bloomberg last month, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said that buying Harmonix would make it appear as if EA is “doubling down on yesterday,” and likened the potential purchase to “catching a falling knife.” Ouch.

Harmonix deserves better. Though the Rock Band series undoubtedly contributed to the over-saturation of instrument-driven music games that consumers have evidently grown weary of, the company was more cautious than Activision about the release of retail expansions versus providing affordable downloadable content (DLC). Plus, Rock Band retail releases have scored consistently higher with fans and critics than the innumerable Guitar Hero games at retail. Rock Band 3 is a grand piece of work. Unfortunately, customers are just burnt out, but the game’s low sales are not indicative of the quality of Harmonix’s output.

A key example is Dance Central, which has scored 82 out of 100 on Metacritic. It also serves as a prime example of what Microsoft’s Kinect is capable of outside of sports simulation and petting tigers. In fact, Microsoft might eventually pick up Harmonix. Dance Central isn’t just a great showcase game for the Kinect; it’s a fun dance game in general. Microsoft might want to keep the franchise to itself, if possible.

On the topic of video games and dancing, Ubisoft would also benefit from the purchase of Harmonix. Ubisoft is behind the hugely popular Just Dance series for the Wii, and the acquisition of Harmonix might add some fresh new ideas (and, ahem, eliminate competition).

Riccitiello’s harsh remarks about Harmonix paint a bleak picture of the studio’s future, but that’s not the case. People still love music games, even if they’re tired of picking up plastic instruments. Harmonix has demonstrated that it has the talent to keep producing great music games of all kinds. In time, someone will pick it up, brush it off, and adopt it.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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