From boom to bust in a few short years: the rhythm game genre.
Thanks to overzealous publishers who pushed too much product and super-saturated the market, the genre is no longer the cash-cow it once was and publishers are starting to cut and run. In the case of Activision and their Guitar Hero franchise, they’ve simply fired all the people involved and have handed Guitar Hero 6 development over to a third-rate developer for the sake of releasing one last title in the series.
In the case of Rock Band from Electronic Arts, scaling back development isn’t the only thing on the table. Viacom, who initially enjoyed ludicrous profits from Rock Band, gave developer Harmonix a nice bonus for being such a good boy. Now that sales have tanked, Viacom is asking for that bonus to be refunded.
“In 2008, we paid $150m under this earn-out agreement related to 2007 performance,” a Viacom SEC filing revealed, according to Gamasutra. “We believe that we are entitled to a refund of a substantial portion of amounts previously paid, but the final amount of the earn-out has not yet been determined.”
Time to give back all that nice stuff you bought with your bonus, Harmonix. You’re not making Viacom enough money anymore, so you have to give their money back.
The first Guitar Hero was published by Viacom-owned MTV Games and Activision, developed by Harmonix, with plastic guitar made by Red Octane. Then Activision took Guitar Hero away from Harmonix and gave it to their pet developer Neversoft. In retaliation, Harmonix left Activision and went to Electronic Arts, where they created Rock Band. Activision recently shut down Red Octane and Neversoft, because Guitar Hero isn’t making them enough money anymore.