Will Harmonix Survive as an Indie Studio?

Will Harmonix Survive as an Indie Studio?

When Viacom put Harmonix up for sale in November, there followed a great deal of speculation over which company would catch the falling stars. Given Harmonix’s generally good work on the Rock Band series and its latest hit, Dance Central for Kinect, it wasn’t hard to believe that the company would be absorbed by Microsoft, thereby making Dance Central and any potential follow-ups the exclusive property of Xbox. Another likely buyer was UbiSoft, the publisher behind Just Dance for the Wii. By claiming Harmonix, it could add the company’s creative input to Just Dance while simultaneously eliminating competition.

So who adopted Harmonix in the end? Simply put, Harmonix left the orphanage and struck out on its own. It was bought by New York-based investment firm Columbus Nova, which established Harmonix SBE Holdings LLC.

“We’re excited to be returning to our roots as an independent and privately-owned studio,” Harmonix said in a statement that also thanked Viacom, MTV, and various bands for their guidance and cooperation over the years. It’s easy to understand why Harmonix is excited about returning to its indie roots: The company still has a lot of potential even if the instrument-based music game genre has dried up for now. Harmonix will obviously still have responsibilities towards Columbus Nova, to say nothing of itself and its fans. That probably means no experimental games that involve public naked singing. Nevertheless, the company is in fact working on “a new project,” and that stands to be an interesting revelation. With no obligations to a big publisher, Harmonix will be allowed to stretch its team’s creative talents a bit further.

That doesn’t mean Harmonix is dumping Rock Band, however. The franchise is troubled, but still in Harmonix’s heart. New DLC is on its way.

Time will tell how Harmonix’s new projects pan out. The company will also find out whether or not it’s worth putting any continued effort behind Rock Band, even if it’s just DLC (most signs point to “Yes”). But striking out on its own was the best option for the company, which still has a lot of light in its soul. Whereas we were previously hoping Harmonix would at least find a kind master, it’s stepped up and taken the reins for its own life. It has the drive to do whatever it wants.

Dramatic, but apt.

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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