Activision blocks release of Rock Band compatibility patch

In case you missed it: Guitar Hero III’s controller for the Playstation 3 doesn’t work with Rock Band—a real problem in a world where no stand-alone controllers exist, and an extra controller is needed in order to play with a full “band” on the Playstation 3. Harmonix, the developer of the guitar controllers for Rock Band announced last week that they’d developed a patch to allow the Guitar Hero III controller to work with Rock Band, causing widespread rejoicing.

But the patch was never released. Today, Rock Band fans found out why:

From Harmonix:

The [PS3 Guitar Hero] compatibility patch was submitted, approved and had been scheduled for release by Sony on Tuesday, December 4. Unfortunately, Activision objected to the compatibility patch’s release. The patch remains with Sony, but we have been told that it will unfortunately not be released due to Activision’s continued objection.

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For the life of me, I’m trying to figure out how sending over a legal team to block a patch which allows your controller to work with somebody else’s incredibly popular game is a smart idea. I mean, what’s the upshot to Activision if they let Harmonix’s patch go out: they sell more Guitar Hero III sets and controllers! I don’t see a downside for them. Harmonix even did all the necessary engineering work and will suffer any technical support woes that come along as a result. All Activision has to do is sell product and make money.

Usually when companies go on legal crusades like this, they’re either sacrificing money to make a (hopefully popular) moral point, or they’re sacrificing popularity in order to make money. Here, Activision seems to be taking the rather unusual tack of sacrificing money in order to become more unpopular. Am I missing something, or is this one of the stupidest business decisions of 2007?

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