The media giant revealed last week that it would sell Rock Band developer Harmonix. Viacom's cutting the cord on the company behind the once-popular rhythmic music games with guitar, drum, and microphone controllers.
It's easy to wager that Harmonix will soon get snapped up by another eager publisher. The real challenging bet here is identifying its potential buyer.
Let's review a few of the candidates:
(Nasdaq: ERTS)-- As the Rock Band franchise's distributor, EA should be at the top of the list. It knows better than anyone -- short of Viacom -- the value of Harmonix. Unfortunately, if Viacom wants to unload Harmonix, it's probably not because its near-term prospects are all that alluring. Music games with bulky instruments as controllers appear to have peaked two years ago.
(Nasdaq: ATVI)-- The company behind Guitar Hero would be a logical buyer, despite antitrust concerns. However, Activision has largely moved on from the niche. Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are its plum franchises these days.
(Nasdaq: TTWO)-- Back when it seemed as if Viacom was digging video games as a way to diversify from its cable broadcasting revenue, I tapped Viacom as a reasonable suitor for Take-Two. Now the tables have turned, and the company behind Grand Theft Auto and BioShock has a chance to beef up its portfolio by entering a new arena with music games.
(Nasdaq: MSFT)-- Exclusivity is big among all three of the console makers, making Harmonix a tempting acquisition if it could design music games specifically for its parent console. Nintendo (OTCBB: NTDOY.PK) could use the edgy cred, and Sony (NYSE: SNE)could use Harmonix to regain the motion-based edge that Kinect appears to have over PlayStation Move, but Microsoft has the fattest bank account.
Now that Viacom has essentially written off Harmonix, it may be more interested in an orderly handoff than in trying to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the developer. The dinner bell is ringing, and somebody will be hungry enough to come to the table, even if rhythm-based games are rarely on gamers' menus these days.
Who will buy Harmonix? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Take-Two Interactive Software is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Nintendo are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft, and Take-Two Interactive Software. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will admit to still playing video games, though finding time is the rub. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.