PART 1: THE LONG, WINDING ROAD TO UNCERTAINTY
And almost all those people quit after a little while because they just don't have the time or talent or patience or perseverance to muscle through the very protracted, laborious process of developing enough facility on a musical instrument to actually have a joyful music-making experience with it. And so the world is full of all of these very passionate music lovers and passionate air guitarists who have this innate yearning to make music, but just really don't have an outlet to express themselves musically, so we founded the company in 1995 to try to solve that problem.Eran Egozy (co-founder and CTO, Harmonix): The Axe was essentially Harmonix's first project, and it was also the thing that was most similar to what we had worked on at The Media Lab. Essentially this way of letting someone create music by using a joystick.Doug Glen (director, Harmonix): It seemed really intriguing that you could take these new technologies and they could be applied to allowing people who loved music but had no real training in music to create, compose, modify music in ways which were pretty profound. To do something that was more than just changing the beat or changing instrumentation, but actually changing music by telling the music what mood it should reflect and what tonal aspects it should have—organic or mechanical.
Which is that just about everyone is born loving music and they're born with this innate desire to make music, and just about everyone tries at some point in their lives to learn to play an instrument or learn to make music.
Chares Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): At that time, we had an office on a street, it was probably a two block-long street. When the bubble burst, everybody started going out of business, to the point where that two block street, which probably had, I'm going to guess, maybe 12 to 15 buildings, there were only, like, two companies left standing [on that] block. Everybody else went out of business [laughs]. Dean Ku (vice president of marketing, RedOctane): But even during the dot com boom, and then bust, we almost ran out of money a couple times. Chares Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): [We] needed to find some business that could be immediately profitable because there was nobody investing anymore; we had to run the entire business off of our own profits. At that time, we were renting games online, and this was, if you remember in the era of PS1, you could mod the PS1s to play import games. [...]And so people could play games from Japan, the Japanese versions of PlayStation 1 games, and so we were renting some of the Japanese PS1 games. At that time, the music games were hugely popular in Asia. Especially DDR. Dance Dance Revolution was hugely popular in Japan, but it had not made its way to the U.S. But people could rent them from our game rental service.
And that was when we realized, "Oh, I think we need to expand from just being a peripheral manufacturer, dance pad maker for someone else's game to making our own game."
“If they don't bring the game to the U.S., we don't have a way to grow our dance pad business. And even worse yet, if they just decide to stop making DDR then we're out of business.”
And so we had this idea that it wasn't just about a crazy music game, but it was about letting people live that experience of being a rock star. And everything should be about that—the music should be about that, the characters and the game should be about that, the experience. Dean Ku (vice president of business, RedOctane): We had these regular meetings where we talked about the business. I do distinctly remember that we came to a point where we had to decide, you know, what's the next title. And I think for most of us, it made sense that we'd move into either a guitar or a drum-like peripheral.
We had this idea that it should be about rock and metal and it should be about guitar, and sort of celebrating that legacy of famous guitar riffs and being a rock star on stage holding a guitar.
At the time we thought, "This is incredible! We got the highest score they've ever gotten coming out of playtest, this game's gonna be a hit." Right? But their marketing people said, "No, you don't understand. This is terrible news. When we describe this game to people, no one wants to play it." And they were right. You know, it was a game that, as fun as it was to play, it [was] incredibly difficult for them to market, then went on to be a commercial failure. Eran Egozy (co-founder and CTO, Harmonix): OK, and honestly, the other issue was that Frequency was just kind of ugly [laughs]. I look at that thing now, and it's like, "Oh man, that is not a pretty-looking game."
The pre-play interest score was the lowest score that they had ever received for any game they'd taken to test and that their post-play intent to purchase score [was] the highest of any game they had taken to test.
That was a real gut punch for us. At that point we were nearly 10 years in. We were about nine and a half years into the existence of the company and we had just released our one non-music game and it was our worst reviewed product that sold four times better than our best reviewed, best game had sold. At that point there was this real moment of doubt where we’re just wondering, like, "Why are we even doing this? Does the world just not want what we're selling?" We were having furious conversations about whether we just needed to, I dunno, close the studio or reinvent the studio and go after something completely different.
We released this kind of middling reviewed game for the EyeToy and then commercially it went on to sell four times better than the best music game that we had ever released.
They approached us in fall of 2004 and said, "Hey guys, we've decided to become a game publisher, and you know, we're sure you guys have played Guitar Freaks," which of course we had and they had as well. And they said, "You know, if we make a guitar, would you guys make a guitar game for us?"
The product [was] going to be at a very high price point because of the peripheral. It was going to take a lot of space at retail which is always difficult even if you're a big publisher. Meanwhile, RedOctane is a tiny company with very little resources, no experience with game publishing. No capital, no networks, no anything. So you take all these reasons, and we're just looking at it and we're just like, "This is never going to work." Tiny, inexperienced publisher, marriage of two unsuccessful genres, this is a terrible idea. That was the adult conversation. And then on the other side of the ladder—fuck yeah we wanted to make a guitar game! This is the game we were born to make. Doug Glen (director, Harmonix): Alex, with his typical humility and his thoroughness made a presentation to the board, where after identifying an opportunity to work with RedOctane said, "OK, here are the reasons why we shouldn't do it: RedOctane has no money, they've got no track record as a game publisher. Frequency and Amplitude bit the dust in humiliating fashion. With the guitar peripheral, it's a huge box and retailers hate huge boxes. Neither RedOctane nor Harmonix has the capital to build much of an inventory, so we can only ship a few and probably only ship to one retailer, maybe a few specialty boutiques. And if history is our guide, it'll probably fail. Those are the cons."
Peripheral-based games were never commercially successful, at least in the U.S. Music games had never been commercially successful, at least in the U.S. So you marry one genre that's never successful with another genre that's never successful, it's like, that's not a recipe for success.
Chris Hartelius (character animator, Harmonix): All it was, it just counted how many notes you hit. So like, a high score would be 500 notes or something. [We had] internal competitions going to see who could get the highest score or whatever. Matt Gilpin (lead character artist, Harmonix): I think they actually wanted to ship a version of that as an Easter Egg.Matt Moore (artist, Harmonix): It was a really good sign that people wanted to play the game that we were working on, right? Like, you didn't get tired of it. You might have beers on Friday and then keep playing it. That's always a good sign. Keith Smith (quality assurance tester, Harmonix): I told them early on that they were going to change video games, and that they were going to be huge, and they needed to stay humble. And the response I got back from [Alex] and Eran was, "If you mean sell 600 to 900 copies as changing the world forever, then yeah, we totally think you're right."
Usually you work for months and months, there's no fun, and you keep changing things and you're looking for the fun. That was a game where it was like, the first week of development it was fun.
Chris Larkin (creative services specialist, RedOctane): I think if Guitar Hero had been a failure, we probably would've closed our company. We were still doing dance pads and things like that, but sales on that were starting to come down. That's why we were trying to find the next big thing. So yeah, it really was, for us it was kind of a make it or break it.
And honestly, another limitation of that development schedule was just financially for both sides, we kind of needed the game to do well and to ship.
Matt Gilpin (lead character artist, Harmonix): Izzy Sparks was—there is a guy we worked with named Izzy. That's not a very common name and it fit the character. Izzy Maxwell (sound designer, Harmonix): There was one day in particular that I came in, and I was tired and not a hundred percent with it, and I walked by the meeting room and I hear everyone's talking about me. They're saying like, "Yeah, Izzy doesn't look that good. He's kind of emaciated, his face looks all messed up." And I'm freaking out thinking, "What are all the managers, like, doing in the office talking about me and how I look?" And you know, eventually I put it together, but it was a fun morning [laughs].
And I remember looking at Axel Steel and thinking, “This game is gonna fuckin’ fail so hard. Are you fuckin’ kidding me?”
“OK, yeah, this was recorded in 1983. He used a Marshall JCM800 but it was hot rodded and pushed through this specific compressor because this specific producer favored this specific outdoor gear. It was produced by Matts Norman.”
Ryan Lesser (art director, Harmonix): Oh yeah, it was super surreal. I remember thinking how weird it was to have lived a life of basically starving, traveling in a van across the country to clubs filled with anywhere between 200 [people] and one person, trying so hard for people to know my music, and now thanks to a video game, millions of people were listening to my song. Daniel Sussman (producer, Harmonix): And then as Guitar Hero became successful, what we saw was more Harmonix people were getting in bands [laughs]. Because they were like, "Oh shit, if I get in a band, I can put a song in the game and that'll be awesome."
For me, there was this shift at shows where instead of autographing CDs, people were bringing the Guitar Hero guitars to the shows. And we would play the Guitar Hero songs from Guitar Hero 1 and Guitar Hero 2, and there were people, like, holding their hands up in the air and playing the gem patterns—like, air guitaring the gem patterns—while we were playing the song.
I mean, it was like such a huge no-no. If Sony wanted to, they could've totally fined RedOctane and stuff like that.Lennon Lange (associate producer, RedOctane): No, we got the whole mock up of the box of everything and got all the approvals of Sony before we even started. We had to do that so that we can get the official license controller sticker. That was important to have it be a legitimate thing.Charles Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): There is a pretty long list of "Where exactly this sticker is supposed to go." I think we did the best we could to follow this, but like I said, it was pretty ragtag sort of operation [laughs].
And what we were doing, we were literally getting guitars from China, they were being shipped to us. Me, my producer, assistant producer, and the testers were in the back taking the guitars, putting them into boxes, and taping them up and shipping out to retail.
Whereas you can't say that about League of Legends or Call of Duty, that's pretty much a one-to-one ratio, probably. Guitar Hero was so much bigger in terms of its player base than its sales number indicated. For a long time, we didn't appreciate what it meant. Guitar Hero 1, we sold maybe $50 million worth of Guitar Hero 1, but so many people were playing it that when you look at the sales, you said, "Ah, $50 million, that's ok." You stack it up versus other games, you say, "These other games sell more." But I think they didn't have the same kind of social circle, where every one we sold had a circle of maybe eight or 10 people who played the game and then got to know it just because of the nature of the game.Eran Egozy (co-founder and CTO, Harmonix): So you couldn't really find Guitar Hero much in the beginning, and I think it also gave this perception of it being a really hot game that was constantly sold out. Because part of it was that there just weren't all that many copies around. Eventually RedOctane was able to produce more and more, which was awesome. Literally, [at first] they couldn't keep up. The more they produced, the more it got sold.
I mean, a billion dollars is impressive, but I always felt like [when] we sell one unit of Guitar Hero, I don't know, maybe eight or 10 people play that game.
The other thing we knew was that in order to kind of maximize the potential of what we had, we needed a bigger partner. Keep in mind, Harmonix was this tiny little studio, and RedOctane was also a tiny little studio. As long as the two tiny studios were working together, that seemed fine.But then we heard that RedOctane was bought by Activision—that happened in the summer of 2006. While that was certainly exciting for [RedOctane], for us, it actually made us kind of worried. Because now it's no longer the small friendly publisher that we knew necessarily, it was now the large behemoth publisher Activision. I think all that meant for us was that we didn't know what was going to happen. You know? Alex Rigopulos (co-founder and CEO, Harmonix): Two things happened in 2006. The first is that in the spring of 2006, Activision bought Red Octane. And then in the fall of 2006, Viacom, or MTV Networks, bought Harmonix. There were a lot of—phew, that was a complicated year—but one of the factors that led us to break off from Guitar Hero and start working on Rock Band was that we very much saw the full band experience as the natural extension of Guitar Hero. We had already started working on the full [band idea]—the drums, guitar, bass, vocal four player experience, and that was really the direction we wanted to go.
One is that, in games, you never know how long a trend is going to last. You certainly hope that it's going to last a long time, but you also know that stuff—how should I say this? You also know that games can be really big one day, but then they fade the next day.
They really just wanted us to stay focused on guitar for a while. For reasons that were all perfectly reasonable. They were all [...] compelling reasons to stay focused on guitar, but we were just dying to go after the full band experience, right? So that was the first rift. Eran Egozy (co-founder and CTO, Harmonix): Well, no. And honestly, this surprised us a little bit, we were not considered at all. We never even talked to Activision about it, so somehow this all happened without our knowledge. Certainly without us being involved. Charles Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): There was a very interesting thing. We were very quickly acquired by Activision after Guitar Hero 1, and not too long thereafter they were acquired by Viacom, by the MTV Music Group [part of Viacom]. Once that deal went down, we were told by executives at Activision that, "We don't work with Viacom." So apparently somewhere in the past, I believe there was some project that went bad between Activision and Viacom. I heard it was, like, a Star Trek project and the companies sued each other, so there was some bad blood at the corporate level. Honestly, we liked Harmonix. We probably would've continued working with them. I would like to say they would've done the same. But you know, we were owned by large corporations, I think Viacom wanted to take them, and instead of them publishing with us, them self-publishing through MTV. So I'm sure there was some financial—there was some corporate bad blood.
In our early conversations with Activision once it was apparent that, you know, RedOctane and Guitar Hero were going to Activision, it seemed that the publishing execs at Activision just weren't that interested in going to the full band experience.
We were really concerned about that. And, you know, fortunately it didn't turn out that way and then Rock Band went on to do very, very well. But we didn't know it at the time, so it was hard for us to watch Guitar Hero take flight with another publisher and another developer while we were focused elsewhere.Charles Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): When we went and started talking to all the different Activision internal studios, there were several studios interested. But one, Neversoft, the first time we met them, they had already had a build of what a Guitar Hero game could look like. It was a build based on a lot of the tech they had built for Tony Hawk. It was very impressive how short of time it was before they had something up and running on their code. But beyond that, just talking to them versus others, because they had worked on Tony Hawk for so long, we felt like that was a team that was used to taking this cultural phenomenon, you know, skateboarding at that time, and putting it inside a game and being faithful to that culture. That was essentially the black box magic of Guitar Hero, was taking the rock-metal culture and putting it into the game in an authentic way. So we felt like there was a lot of overlap in terms of the sensibilities of the studio. That's largely why it ended up going with Neversoft. Chris Larkin (creative services specialist, RedOctane): It was funny meeting all the Neversoft guys, obviously being led by [co-founder and CEO] Joel Jewett, who is quite a character himself. Yeah, the one difference though I would say is when they pitched us taking over Guitar Hero—which to us made sense obviously, because if you go back to the Tony Hawk soundtrack, they had guys that got that scene and that vibe and that was definitely something we were going to—but whereas Harmonix would reference Spinal Tap, Neversoft kind of would reference… what was the Ralph Macchio [movie], Crossroads or something? That to me, I didn't really get that at all. But anyways, that's beside the point.
God, Activison is a very big, capable, skilled, well-resourced publisher now publishing Guitar Hero 3. They're going to be bring all kinds of thunder to market. We've got this game that costs $200. We're working with MTV, they're a big company, but they haven't really done game publishing before. Did we make a terrible mistake? Is this thing going to be a wreck?
It was made to be sort of like finger dexterity challenges and sort of like brutally difficult and stuff [...] It was just something that jumped out, like, "Hey, these are not music game developers." That said, it's nitpicking. They did a fantastic job and the commercial results of that franchise can speak for themselves. Daniel Sussman (producer, Harmonix): I feel like Guitar Hero 3 is a really good entry in the franchise. My personal take is that the Harmonix team understood the brand in a way that—I feel like the franchise moved away from that super-crisp understanding, the nuanced understanding of what the Guitar Hero universe was all about. They made great gets with respect to soundtrack, and it's such an awesome strong brand, but I feel like what Harmonix does really well is nerd out on the details that if you get the joke it's awesome, and if you don't get the joke it's cool, it doesn't matter. But like, those details, I think, matter. Ryan Lesser (art director, Harmonix): I actually thought Guitar Hero 3 was really bad. And I'm not surprised, it's a hard game to make if you're just a regular game developer. I do think that eventually they made really good Guitar Hero games. It took them a few games to get the hang of it. Guitar Hero 3 didn't have the right feel, it didn't have the right patterns, they didn't have all the experience that we had in some of the in-house know-how of all these musicians. I just felt like it really showed. And that made me sad, because again, I would still be walking around and people would ask me about Guitar Hero, so I still had an affinity to the brand and the game, but it was sad for me to see that it actually wasn't that good. Greg LoPiccolo (project leader, Harmonix): I remember we were a little cranky, because they took over all the IP. Here's an example—we put a lot of work into the characters, and I remember putting a lot of work into trying to nail the female characters specifically. We didn't them to be kind of exploitative, we wanted them to be powerful, girl rock characters. Joan Jett style. Just the rendering and so forth. And then I remember when Guitar Hero 3 came out, we were all like, "Ah, they didn't really stick to that." [laughs] It was a little sleazy. And they put ads in it. There was a bunch ads for Buick and stuff. Just as a technical accomplishment, I tip my hat to the Neversoft team that banged out that Guitar Hero 3 in eight or nine months. That couldn't have been easy [laughs]. Eran Egozy (co-founder and CTO, Harmonix): I mean, I thought those guys did a pretty incredible job. Honestly, they had to make a game very quickly. I personally was not into their aesthetic. At Harmonix, we tried keeping things more—I don't know what the right word is, but maybe like, family friendly? So our vibe was, I think, more about celebrating music. I think they were going for an edgier vibe that maybe was more appealing to young boys, so to speak [laughs]. That said, obviously they did really well with the game. Rob Kay (lead game designer, Harmonix): They managed to go in there and re-create the magic of Guitar Hero in their own engine in their own way. It was impressive. Neversoft is a fantastically accomplished game developer, so I was impressed with what it did. Chris Larkin (creative services specialist, RedOctane): I think the press chose sides more than we ever chose sides. Like, I was always cool with the Harmonix guys whenever I saw them after the game got released, and I think everyone was. I know that Kai and Charles still talked to Alex—maybe to this day, who knows? So there's no, like, hard feelings or anything. They were definitely competition, but there was no animosity to that at all. It was just kinda funny, it's like, "If you're a Guitar Hero person, you can't be a Rock Band person." I enjoyed Rock Band too, you know? Charles Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): Later on, people always thought that we were, like, mortal enemies because of Rock Band and Guitar Hero [laughs]. [....] We'd see each other game game shows and we'd show each other our builds. Like, "Hey, here's what we're working on." They'd [go], "Oh, here's what we're working on!" We didn't view each other as, like, enemies. I guess in my head—and perhaps naively—we were like this little publisher and this little studio that worked on Guitar Hero 1 that kind of shook up the world at the time. We always had a lot of good will, I felt like, because of that. Longer legsBetween 2005 and 2010, including spin-offs and mobile titles, 24 Guitar Hero games came out. Between 2007 and 2010, Harmonix put out 10 mainline Rock Band games. By the time it was officially discontinued in 2017, the RockBand Network, which allowed artists to publish their songs in-game for players to purchase as downloadable content, had more than 4,000 available songs from more than 1,200 different artists. What started as a game no one thought would sell at all became an entire industry. The small teams that sheparded that first Guitar Hero project grew to unwieldy sizes to meet demands for the new games and new content, in the eyes of some, losing the culture that made them special in the first place. By 2010, the music game craze that Guitar Hero kickstarted was showing diminishing returns. Almost as quickly as it all took off, as more and more came out, Guitar Hero and Rock Band games started selling less and less. In February 2010, Activision closed RedOctane. And while Harmonix has put out a few Rock Band games since, such as Rock Band 4 in 2015, which it's supported with consistent DLC, and Rock Band VR in 2017, neither are the cultural juggernauts earlier games were. Harmonix has since gone on to pursue other projects. The unanimous opinion as to why this whole genre died out, at least according to the people we talked to, is over-saturation. It got too big too quick, and everyone rushed to make as many games as possible to meet the demand. And then they made too many games, and consumers couldn't keep up, so they didn't. Keith Smith (quality assurance, Harmonix): By the time we got to Rock Band, there was over 300-something employees [at Harmonix]. At one point, in Central Square, Cambridge, they had to have two floors of an office building and then buy out a whole separate space across the street to fill seats because that's how many people we had.Matt Moore (artist, Harmonix): I mean, that was crazy. So our Weelys used to be just in part of the office in the lunch area, and eventually it got so big that people would be standing around the edges of the room and eating. At some point, they did rent out a space from the church that was across the street. You'd get a notification that it was Weely time, you'd walk across the street, and it'd be this army of people going over, and they had huge buffet lines for lunch every week. It was incredible. Back then it was, like, 400-ish people, so when you would give a presentation to the company it suddenly was like intimidating all the sudden. It used to be such a tight space. Izzy Maxwell (sound designer, Harmonix): I got really into it, actually, and tried to read up about culture and what happens. It was pretty fascinating to me. I read this great study on basically how big a community needs to be for crime to exist. And it was funny because there were people that argued all different numbers, but the average was about 150 people, which was about the size Harmonix was at the time I learned that. [I] just thought, "Ah, shit. Yeah. Here we go." It got weird, man, when we hit, I think, almost 350 employees. Going from 50 to 350 in just a couple years was—I guess a few years, but still—that was way too fast.Matt Moore (artist, Harmonix): There was a shift when you used to know everybody at the company. What is it? That magic number for company size is 120, I think? I think you could tell there was a change, right? I met somebody relatively recently that was like, "Oh yeah, I worked at Harmonix, too." And it was from that period, and I was like, "Oh, I didn't know that, I never saw you there."
An obvious example that a lot of our fans were citing early on is just that the note charting was very unmusical.
Two of the greatest players in the world playing one of the hardest songs in the game, it's like, "Well, it's impressive. Like, wow, boy are they moving their fingers fast." Right? But there's no element of surprise. They're just playing, they're completing the sequence that the game [is asking of them]. And I think that the absence of creative agency, absence of the element of surprise ultimately is a serious encumbrance on the longevity of any one particular title in a franchise like that, or the longevity of a [series] like that. Ryan Lesser (art director, Harmonix): The big one, at least at the time, what I personally felt the demise of the genre was, was oversaturation—I think on a large part from Activision. And then, somewhat, just in response by us trying to stay up to snuff with our sort, I don't know, I guess our enemy. I'll use that word [laughs]. You know, too much stuff came out too fast. There were so many Activision games in such a short period of time, and they weren't really that amazing and they weren't offering anything new. I think people just got sick of seeing them. You know?Greg LoPiccolo (project leader, Harmonix): [Activision] had this philosophy of really squeezing as much money as they could out of a given franchise. And they really went at it. They were coming out with two or three Guitar Heros a year. It was, like, madness. And we kinda had to keep pace to satisfy retail and so forth. That was not that fun. So I think it did get burned. There was just so much product in the channel, and you know, it was this big gold rush that we did not really instigate [laughs] or necessarily agree with. I would've been happy to just refine it over longer periods of time, but hey, it was what it was. That's how it played out.Keith Smith (quality assurance, Harmonix): Here's the thing: you're either cool or you're not.That's just what it is. I think Harmonix was cool all the way up until around Rock Band 2, and then after that we were trying to be cool. Again, that's just trying to survive, because Activision were being dicks! Like, realistically, there's no other way around it [laughs]. It's clear if you sit back and look that Activision decided they would rather sink the ship than share the ground. Do you know what I mean?Jason Kendall (artist and animator, Harmonix): We always felt that when Activision got a hold of it, they were just going to plunder it and kill it. And you know, they know how to make money, and I think a lot of us thought at the time that [bangs fist] constant, constant, constant iterations, just hammering on the same thing would kill it. You know what I mean? That's what we thought. Marcus Henderson (contract guitarist, WaveGroup): Anytime you put out six games in one year, you’re clearly stating that you don’t see any long-term revenue plan for this IP. What Activison did is what Activision always does and that’s try to extract every nickel they can so they can make sure that their quarterly reports are hot and the investors get theirs. You know, the real gamers. Take care of the real fuckin’ people here. Let’s make sure that all of the important people get theirs.Remember how I said I wasn’t going to be negative? [laughs] Here I am: Fuck Activision.No, seriously though. I think what happened was you had a shining star, it wasn’t going to go forever but it’s found second life in like Score Hero and kids play this game every single day. It wasn’t designed for long-term commercial enjoyment because I think all the good songs had already been used up.
Meaning, if you watch someone play Rock Band incredibly well or Guitar Hero incredibly well, it's the same experience every time.
And I threw a fit. I tried to tell everybody that I could, but no one fucking listened.Ron Doornink (president and CEO of publishing, Activision): [Activision] struggled to maintain the momentum of the franchise and it is debatable whether that was a function of gamers moving onto other games/genres, or the result of some of the decisions that were made. Charles Huang (co-founder and vice president of business, RedOctane): Honestly, looking back, we had nobody to blame but ourselves for kind of [burning] through the category so fast by just pumping way too much into the market. [...] I think that was the worst part of the competition, I felt like, was that we ended up kind of flooding the market. That music game genre should've had longer legs, if it wasn't for us being caught up in that.The craterThe peripheral-based music genre burned fast and hot, and fizzled out almost as quickly, but you can't deny the games' legacies. Guitar Hero and Rock Band turned a lot of people onto bands they'd never heard of, reunited bands, and affected music sales. At the height of its popularity, a song featured in a Guitar Hero game could boost its individual downloads by as much as 843-percent.But more importantly, these games made new musicians. As recently as 2017, artists like Post Malone, one of the biggest musicians in the world right now, were citing Guitar Hero when talking about their careers. For a studio like Harmonix, that's the true legacy of Guitar Hero. Not the money, not the success, but the kids that picked up real guitars and started their own bands. Greg LoPiccolo (project leader, Harmonix): Just the fact that we were able to turn people onto the joy of rock music, I'm super proud of that. It was worth doing. It was fun to do and I'm happy it came out that way. So that's what I would say. It was a good ride, no complaints [laughs]. Lennon Lange (associate producer, RedOctane): I'm so proud of the amount of times that I still hear, because now I do just on the side, I mentor trans youth, like suicide watches and all that stuff, and the amount of young kids that I meet that are guitar players that literally every single time they go, "I started playing guitar because of Guitar Hero." Oh, that's amazing. I have heard that so many times. And honestly, from the get go, that was what I was hoping for. I really, when I chose the music and chose how the notes should be played and how it should feel, the end goal was pick up a fucking guitar.Dan Schmidt (game systems programmer, Harmonix): You know, for a while I'd be able to drop the fact, like, "Oh yeah, I was one of the people that made Guitar Hero," and people'd be like, "Oh my God! Really?!" [laughs] It's a little less exciting to people now than it used to be, but you know, that's fine, too. Things come and things go.
‘Nothing's gonna change, we want you to be independent,’ and each month it would change and it would change and it would change and then turned into literally all they cared about was numbers.