Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Game Off! Viacom Dumps Rock Band on Investment Group

Remember when music video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band were red-hot? That was a couple of years ago. Now Rock Band owner Viacom is getting out of the business.

The cable programming giant has sold its Harmonix unit, which published the game, to investment fund Columbus Nova LLC. It hasn’t disclosed a price, and if it’s not material it won’t have to. And my guess is that it won’t: Viacom bought the games business for $175 million in 2006, when the games were on the upswing, and if I had to bet, I’d say it will end up selling it for less.

Let’s take a minute here to point out something obvious, but which we always seem to forget–media consumption trends move very, very fast. You only have to go back two years to find Warner Music Group’s Edgar Bronfman Jr. demanding that the music labels get their fair share of the “enormous opportunity” the games were creating.

And just a year ago, (some) people were convinced that a special Beatles version of Rock Band was going to be a very, very big deal.

Now gamers are on to something new: Microsoft’s Kinect, for instance, seems to be selling very well this month. But I wouldn’t bet on it staying hot a couple of years from now.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik