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Rock Band Creators Discuss Rocky Road to Success

September 3, 2009Written by Draisey

Harmonix employs 320 people, and is responsible for the creation of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, two of the videogame industry’s most successful game franchises. Yet, as founding members Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy reveal, the musical duo had a very rough start, along with numerous failures that ultimately showed them the road to success.

The two met as graduate students at MIT’s Media Lab, Eran an Electrical Engineering/Computer Science major at MIT, and Alex a Music Composition major. The two first built an application where people could use a flight simulator joystick to compose and output music on the fly. In order to continue doing what they loved, they created Harmonix using funds from their friends and family totaling $100,000.

For five years, the group operated without generating any revenue, and a failed attempt at making a karaoke game also made them realize that they didn’t really understand the draw of karaoke games (or music games for that matter). Alex explains how this came about:

“I was watching people interact with our product, and the realization came crashing down on me — we had spent 18 months on a music system that was fundamentally flawed. Karaoke isn’t about personal expression. It’s about people reproducing the songs they know as accurately as they can.”

This realization gave them the drive to make Frequency and Amplitude, two “electronic rhythm-action games” that were built very well but also failed to become big wins for the company. The incredibly addictive music titles became underground hits, but nothing more. And the reason really was that people didn’t understand what the games were about at face value.

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