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Report: Harmonix Sold For Just Under $50

Viacom's sale price for Harmonix ended up being just about the same as that of a new copy of Rock Band 3 -- $50, according to media reports. [UPDATE: Info on tax ramifications added.]
Harmonix's sale price ended up being just about the same as that of a new copy of Rock Band 3 -- media reports say investment firm Columbus Nova, which bought the developer from Viacom, paid $49.99. This may seem like a surprising arrangement, but technology news site All Things Digital cites unnamed sources to suggest that Columbus Nova has also assumed responsibility for costly outstanding matters like music rights fees and remaining warehouse inventory of games and plastic instruments. Significantly for Harmonix, the company reportedly gets to keep the IP it developed while under Viacom's purview, Rock Band and new Dance Central. The latter of these is widely regarded as among the best of what's available for Microsoft's Kinect, and was the top-selling game for the device in November, according to NPD Group. When MTV parent Viacom acquired the studio in September 2006, it paid $175 million in cash plus earn-out bonuses to former shareholders in the studio. That transaction, of course, took place during a different climate for video game retail, when peripheral-equipped band games flew briskly off of store shelves. Those earn-outs are currently a topic of legal contention between Harmonix's shareholders and Viacom, although that suit concerns only former shareholders and will not come to bear on the developer's sale or ongoing operations. Harmonix says it'll continue to develop DLC and pursue its planned music release schedule for Rock Band music. [UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times notes that the inexpensive deal had major tax ramifications, as Viacom "received a 2010 tax benefit of about $50 million based on losses in its investment", and "it offloaded about $100 million in liabilities owed by Harmonix that have been assumed by its new owner."]

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