Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos explains what happened to Rock Band Japan

After announcing intentions to bring its Rock Band franchise to the Japanese market way back in the summer of 2008, Harmonix and co-developer Q Entertainment quietly walked away from the project. "Never say never," Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos said of the project in a group interview session this week at Tokyo Game Show, answering a question asked by Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft. "We were very much interested in bringing that experience in some form to the Japanese market," he explained. "There were a couple of significant challenges."

Beyond the whole "manufacturing and shipping hundreds of thousands more plastic peripherals to an island country" ... thing, Rigopulos lamented issues with licensing Japanese music for the game, which he characterized as "very difficult in Japan, relative to other countries." He also pointed to a rather obvious concern: space limitations in Japanese households. "Even for people who have the space, Japanese families tend to not make a lot of noise in their homes. They generally have a quieter lifestyle at home 'cause they're living in closer quarters, and also Japanese families don't entertain in their homes as much."

Given the original inspiration for Harmonix' franchises Guitar Hero and Rock Band was the arcade-born Guitar/Drum Freaks franchise, I wondered if Harmonix had looked at Japanese arcades as an option instead of a home console release. "That's something we considered," he admitted. "One of the challenges is that arcades are very, very noisy, and so if you're trying to make something that's really a musical experience and you've got 37 other arcade machines all turned up to full volume, it kind of impairs the musicality of the experience."

Again, Rigopulos said Harmonix has yet to give up on the concept of Rock Band in Japan, but from the sound of things, it's not exactly at the top of his priority list.

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