Harmonix’s Rock Band franchise saw big sales since its release, and Rock Band 2 sales were solid with 2 million units sold since the game’s September 2008 launch, but that wasn’t enough for Viacom, as the company admitted that the sales were weaker than expected.
The media company attributed the game’s underperformance to a sudden drop in retail spending in the last months of 2008, due to the deepening recession. Despite weak sales, Viacom notes that the series helped increase revenues for its Media Networks segment, which was one of very few positive highlights in Viacom’s earnings call.
The conglomerate said that it plans to focus more on the franchise this year. While there won’t be a numbered sequel, they will release a game featuring music from legendary band The Beatles.
Rock Band is surely big business, especially for Harmonix, the developers themselves, and Viacom. However, it is even bigger business for the founders of the studio – Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy – who have gotten a bonus of $150 million this year, based on the stellar sales performance of the franchise.
Even better yet (for them, anyway) is word that Viacom will be paying them even more this year as bonus. It is “expected to exceed this year’s payment,” noted Viacom, implying that it will be more than $300 million in bonuses, though how much more is yet not known.
"We may not have anticipated the payment would be that high, but it’s based on what they have achieved,” said Viacom spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew. "If they are making more money for us and we have to give a little back, that’s OK."
Viacom and Microsoft have partnered for a mutually beneficial content and advertising deal, one that also carries relevance to gaming. Though terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, Microsoft claims the deal is valued at $500 million.
The deal sees Viacom working to become the “preferred publishing partner across Microsoft’s casual gaming platforms.” The company has three major casual platforms – MSN Games, Windows and Xbox Live Arcade. They also renewed their Xbox Live Marketplace agreement, adding programming from BET to the service that already features video from MTV Networks and Paramount.
The following quote from Viacom‘s Q2 earnings report conference call set off quite a storm a couple of days back:
Importantly, Xfire just signed a deal with Sony to create a version of their platform for the new PS3, which will now enable Xfire to extend its reach further into the huge console gaming market.
According to the company, which is the owner of Xfire, a very popular online gaming community client, it is developing a version of its software for use in Sony’s online network for the PS3. However, before you get all hot and excited, 1Up carries word from SOE‘s Chris Kramer that Xfire is being used for the PS3… but only in one game: Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a launch title. The technology deal is specific to the SOE game and is “separate and independent from the PlayStation Network Platform,” he said. Mike Cassidy, CEO of Xfire, added to his statement, saying that “Xfire is not part of the PlayStation Network Platform,” effectively closing any rumors.
Sony is yet to detail its plans for the PNP which will go live this November when the PS3 launches.