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September 27, 2006

On the MTVN Purchase of Harmonix

One of the major news stories of the last week regarding cross-platform content is the intriguing acquisition of Harmonix not by anyone heavily associated with the video game industry but rather cable group MTVN.

The connection these two companies share is not that hard to make, since Harmonix is known for promoting games that cross over into music, and the MTV brand has a lot invested in the pop music industry, even if some of its program isn't explicitly tied to musical content (as the complaint so often seems to be).

However, MTVN wasn't the traditional company one would expect to be in competition to buy a business that produces video games. I did hear some waves going around for a while before the sale was announced that MTVN was going to be the top bidder, but this did not come at all from our research affiliation with MTV Networks and did not come from someone who works with the company.

One would think that it is directly tied to the phenomenal success of the Guitar Hero game that has made Harmonix a revolutionary name for gamers. I know that I've endured many a night that devolved into a de facto guitar tournament between MIT colleagues, as this Flickr collection demonstrates, although I've never partaken.

What is MTVN's plans? We've seen them aggressively expand into the college newspaper space and into digital downloading through their Urge product, and this latest acquisition has many people speculating. But it does prove that the company continually has its eye on spreading into new media platforms that can expand the product while also remaining true to the MTV brand's DNA. Only time will tell what this acquisition will mean.

Harmonix has been an interest of discussion from some time here, stemming back to a debate about what constitutes a lifestyle brand, such as this piece from David Edery and my response. Maybe David has a point, that one of the main reasons Harmonix ultimately became attractive to MTVN is that they were developing some of the characteristics of a lifestyle brand, making them fit nicely into the MTV package.

Thanks to Joshua Green for forwarding along one of the articles linked here.

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