Hooray for Harmonix: Everyone's Happy Edition
At the top of the last post I said I wanted to write something happy and good. And I do, and now I can. One of the best things I can say is too many great games came out to leave time to write a post. I'm in the business because I love games, and I purchased every major release in the last few months, logging countless hours in everything from Dead Space, to Mirror's Edge yesterday. Many of these games couldn't happen on the last generation of console, but one in particular could, and that's the good thing I am writing about.
Viacom's recent public filings included a statement indicating additional payments would be made to the Harmonix founders. Significant additional payments would be made to Harmonix founders. While admittedly seething with envy, I am truly excited to see the payments being made. Our history is littered with mega payments for "the greatest developer" in the world which later turned out to be overpayments for news events. The mega acquisitions, more often than not, resulted in dissolution of the thing the publisher acquired and the corresponding loss of the developer's spirit. The very thing the publisher tried to own. John Riccitiello spoke to this point at DICE last year and acknowledged EA's is shortcomings in the past and said it is striving to change the culture. Time will tell, but what about the others? The boys at Infinity Ward don't seem so happy. At the other end of the spectrum as those developers who got the "You know we can pay you the royalties we owe you, or we can call it an acquisition and you can save all those taxes" deal (I wish you all were in the room to hear Diego Angel's reaction that suggestion.). These deals turn into publisher ammunition in acquisition discussions leaving developers to constantly wonder "where was I when the stupid money was being spent."
The Harmonix announcement is so great because it shows Viacom not only got exactly what it paid for, it got more. The deal was drafted in a manner to compensate the developer when products did better than anticipated. In case that was not enough encouragement, Viacom left the company alone to do what they do best. Left to its own devices without publisher interference, cultural indoctrination and scores of publisher ground troops, Harmonix followed its Guitar Hero mega hit with its Rock Band Mega Hit. Now for the cool part. Rather than milking the franchise and forcing Harmonix to grow a dozen teams in all directions until the property ends with "Rock Band Babies," Viacom supported Harmonix in its pursuit of Beatles music for a new product. How cool is that? Just in case we have not reached the pinnacle of coolness, rather than challenging the additional payment Viacom made it, and welcomed it with the following statment:
"We may not have anticipated the payment would be that high, but it's based on what they have achieved,'' Viacom spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew commented to Bloomberg. "If they are making more money for us and we have to give a little back, that's OK."