There's nothing quite like a soul-crushing stadium rock anthem when you want to bring an audience to its feet -- or to breathe life into an earnings report.

Riding a heavy metal wave of Guitar Hero III success, Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI) rattled off a face-melting solo performance for the holiday season. THQ (Nasdaq: THQI) was relegated to strictly rhythm, and Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS) forgot the words to that old hit "Profits," but Activision improved third-quarter sales over the previous year by 80% and profits by 87%. At $1.5 billion in revenue, Activision now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with EA.

This should surprise absolutely nobody who has paid any attention to video games and their makers over the past year or so. Guitar Hero has become a cultural phenomenon -- we don't have to just play air guitar for Uncle Timmy anymore, because now we can get instant feedback on that performance from a gadget, a game, and a scoring system. Schweeeeet!

There's going to be an encore to this gig, of course. Activision CEO Robert Kotick noted that "Europe continues to track one year behind North America," which sets the stage for fresh growth in another major market next year. And one of the reasons behind Activision's merger with Vivendi's video game unit is that it comes with distribution channels into karaoke-crazy Asia, where Guitar Hero I is yet to be launched. So far, this franchise is the business equivalent of Metallica -- a mainly North American act with some European elements.

There's a rival rockapalooza across the tracks. EA only distributes Rock Band, which sold 1.5 million units between its release in that cold November rain and the end of a long December. Viacom (NYSE: VIA) (NYSE: VIA-B) owns developer studio Harmonix and published the game through its MTV Games subsidiary, and should reap substantial profits from that more sophisticated rock product. Granted, it's a much bigger outfit, so it's hard for one product to make a major impact on its own, but I don't think Mr. Market considered the gaming angle much when he set that stock price.

Activision can rock this joint for a long time, like Old Man Petty did at the Super Bowl. The Viacom upstart wants to be the next jukebox hero. Both belong in your record collec ... um, portfolio.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is working on a guitar controller for its trusty old Dreamcast.