With falling sales of Rock Band blamed for a three per cent year-on-year decline in sales for Harmonix owner Viacom, the company has said that it wants a partial refund of bonuses paid to the developer in 2008.
Viacom enjoyed strong profits of $694m for the quarter ending December 31st, but sales fell to $4.1bn – a drop pegged on declining year-on-year sales of the firm’s Guitar Hero-rivalling music series.
“In 2008, we paid $150m under this earn-out agreement related to 2007 performance,” a Viacom SEC filing revealed, according to Gamasutra.
“We believe that we are entitled to a refund of a substantial portion of amounts previously paid, but the final amount of the earn-out has not yet been determined.”
Question marks have been hanging over the franchise for some time now, with current distribution partner EA seemingly cooling on its aspirations for the brand.
Viacom, however, still sees a bright future for the IP, though a strategic shift will see it move away from releasing further expensive peripherals and concentrating instead of software and DLC.
“It certainly was a challenging year in 2009 for the videogame industry in general and certainly for our Rock Band franchise,” Viacom’s Philippe Dauman told investors.
“As we go forward, we are continuing to focus more on software than hardware, looking to reduce the cost structure associated with Rock Band, being selective in the music titles that we choose for Rock Band based on their cost.
“The music industry will have to assist with this category to make sure that it can continue on a profitable basis in the future, and then finally, we think we have the best games in the category, we'll continue to roll out exciting products.”
Things are far from rosey in the Guitar Hero camp, either, with Activision rumoured to have closed the doors of series’ original creator RedOctane.