Re­u­nion tour

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Har­monix tunes up for Rock Band’s Xbox One/PS4 re­birth

Har­monix is bring­ing Rock Band back for PS4 and Xbox One

The strato­spheric rise of the pe­riph­er­alled mu­sic game be­tween 2005 and 2008 was one of the more ex­tra­or­di­nary trends in videogame his­tory, per­haps equalled only by how quickly the genre dis­ap­peared. For mil­lions, drop­ping to your knees with a plas­tic gui­tar held aloft is one of the defin­ing mem­o­ries of the 360/PS3 era, but an­nual it­er­a­tion and a flood of new games with ever-mor­ere­dun­dant plas­tic in­stru­ments wore the mar­ket out so quickly that it could not sur­vive the re­ces­sion. In 2009, Ac­tivi­sion re­leased 25 dif­fer­ent mu­sic game SKUs. By 2011, there were none at all.

But Har­monix – one of the orig­i­na­tors of west­ern rhythm-ac­tion games and the de­vel­oper of Am­pli­tude, Rock Band and Gui­tar Hero, the game that kick­started the mu­sic game’s rise to promi­nence – is still here. And now, af­ter a five-year hia­tus, it is bring­ing Rock Band back. Rock Band 4 will be out on PS4 and Xbox One this year, and it’s de­signed to be a plat­form that can be main­tained and up­dated for years. The in­dus­try is very dif­fer­ent now, of course, but so is Har­monix. When the first Rock Band was be­ing de­vel­oped, the com­pany was part of MTV Games un­der Vi­a­com. Vi­a­com bought Har­monix shortly af­ter Ac­tivi­sion ac­quired the Gui­tar Hero name, along with Har­monix’s for­mer pub­lisher, RedOc­tane. Now Har­monix is an in­de­pen­dent stu­dio once again, hav­ing bought it­self out in late 2010, and Alex Rigop­u­los, co-founder of thee com­pany, has stepped away from thee CEO po­si­tion he had held for 19 years arss and re­cast him­self as cre­ative direc­tor. or.

“I’d been look­ing for a re­place­menten nt for quite some time, in large part be­causeca ause the cre­ative work is what I love mostt – it’sits it’s more fun and less stress­ful than CEO job job, b, and so I’d been look­ing for a way to g get more di­rectly rein­volved in the cre­ative ve work,” Rigop­u­los tells us us. s. “We’re much smaller no nowow than we used to be -–– dur­ing the peak Rock Band phase, we were near 300 peo­ple. Now we’re at t 110, 120. The big­gerer dif­fer­ence is that backk then we were a monolithic c stu­dio. We were like a fac­tory that had to be de­voted to pro­duc­ing more and more Rock Band con­tent and ti­tles. Now we’re much more en­tre­pre­neur­ial, with sev­eral small teams work­ing in­de­pen­dently of a cen­tral gov­er­nance struc­ture.”

It was one of those small teams that sparked Rock Band’s come­back. Last sum­mer, a cou­ple of staff were work­ing on pro­to­type Rock Band- style game­play, and it re­minded the stu­dio that there was still work it wanted to do with the se­ries, the rights to which it still owned. “Some of the most fun we’ve had was at the be­gin­ning of the project, just tak­ing [ Rock Band] off the shelf and play­ing it again,” Rigop­u­los says. “Ev­ery­one

“Some of the most fun we’ve had was at the be­gin­ning of the project, just tak­ing Rock Band off the shelf”

Pe­riph­er­als are re­vamped but won’t de­liver new func­tion­al­ity, and Har­monix is work­ing hard to make the next Rock­Band back­ward-com­pat­i­ble

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