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Riccitiello: Buying Rock Band's Harmonix Will Be Like Trying To 'Catch A Falling Knife'

Electronic Arts' Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello has commented on Viacom’s plans to sell Rock Band developer Harmonix, saying potential buyers are more likely to be "cut" by the deal than benefit from it.
Electronic Arts' Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello has commented on Viacom’s plans to sell Rock Band developer Harmonix, saying potential buyers are more likely to be "cut" by the deal than benefit from it. Speaking to financial news site Bloomberg yesterday, Riccitiello said: “I’m sure some smart investor will buy the business feeling that they can catch a falling knife." “But more people have been cut trying to catch falling knives than have benefited from getting the timing exactly right,” he added. While not admitting that Electronic Arts has actively looked at Harmonix, Riccitiello noted that overall in the video game space: "There are probably 25 companies on our radar that would make sense for us at somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the asking price." With the recent Gamasutra-sourced news that sales of retail music games in the U.S. have dropped by more than a factor of five since 2008, it's not surprising that Electronic Arts is not coming out with a strong public interest at this stage. In fact, the company has gained significant revenue from the Rock Band franchise in the past, despite not owning it, via its EA Partners division's distribution of the series to retail. Nonetheless, with Viacom noting that 'several companies' have expressed an interest in the Boston-based music game franchise originator, it seems likely that Harmonix will be picked up by an external party at some point soon. Riccitiello is more than lukewarm on the possibility, according to his Bloomberg interview, hinting of his intentions: “We’re still out of favor... Moves that look like I’m doubling down on yesterday would make it harder still to convince investors that tomorrow is the Promised Land.”

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