A lot of people have counted Rock Band, and the company that created it, Harmonix, out lately, but the future does not look so glum, after all.
Not quite a year ago, in December 2010, Viacom sold Harmonix to a private owner. Many people thought the company was going to go the way of other gaming companies, and just dwindle to nothing. Rock Band sales had dwindled, Guitar Hero was sold to Activision. Doom seemed near.
But then, Harmonix did something unexpected. They came up with another big thing: Dance Central. According to an article at Bloomberg, the inspiration came from a favorite after-hours activity of Harmonix’ musician employees: They liked to hire a barge and dance. That led them to think about how much fun it would be to create a game where people could dance freely in their living room. But all the dance games that were currently on the market required bulky or restrictive equipment. When Microsoft came up with Kinect, with technology that would allow them to create a dance game that would not need mats or handheld consoles, but which would track the dancers in 3D, Dance Central was born. Dance Central sold 2.5 million copies in a year, and 2011 became Harmonix’s most profitable year ever, with over $100 million in net profit expected. Last month, the company released Dance Central 2.
But what about Rock Band? With not many people buying new games, is Rock Band doomed? Hardly. Downloads are keeping Rock Band profitable.
When Harmonix built music downloading into its games in the beginning, around 20% of the profit went to licensing fees, according to according to Michael Pachter, an accountant quoted in the Bloomberg article. But with Guitar Hero on hiatus, there is less competition for the songs, so the price is expected to come down. Rock Band players continue to download songs long after they originally buy the game, so as long as Harmonix continues to offer new downloads (which they do monthly), Rock Band will continue to be profitable and to drive the action at house parties all over the country.