Harmonix founders detail the company's failure-ridden road to success


Believe it or not, things weren't always going so well for Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchise developers Harmonix. Starting out in 1995 as a "music tech" company, founders Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy took four years of "misstarts and product concepts that never made it anywhere" before they had any success. Talking to CNN Money, the two detail five years of strange, misguided, or ill-informed ideas that eventually somehow lead to The Beatles: Rock Band.

First up: "The Axe," something that Rigopulos describes as "a joystick music improvisation system." In so many words, you moved the joystick around and various sounds were produced. Unsurprisingly, only 300 were sold -- "a horrendous failure that led to a painful lesson," Rigopulos says. "You can't really build a business on an entertainment experience that only keeps people entertained for 15 minutes." Second, the two tried breaking into the (at the time) $10 billion Japanese karaoke market ... and met with resounding failure once again.

Luckily for us, lessons learned overseas came back with the duo and Harmonix became a game company. Rigopulos and Egozy quickly changed their company's focus from "music tech" to "gaming," creating Frequency and Amplitude soon after. Though the games didn't directly lead to the financial success achieved later with Guitar Hero and Rock Band (GH didn't get off the ground until RedOctane approached Harmonix in the early oughts), both helped the now major developer to get a foot in the door.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.