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Harmonix Talks Guitar Hero's $1 Million Budget, Guitar Freaks Inspiration

As part of a new book extract debuting on Gamasutra today, Harmonix's Rob Kay has been discussing the creation of the original Guitar Hero, revealing the

Simon Carless, Blogger

December 5, 2007

2 Min Read

As part of a new book extract debuting on Gamasutra today, Harmonix's Rob Kay has been discussing the creation of the original Guitar Hero, revealing the original game budget of $1 million and the Konami-inspired, hardware-based project genesis. In particular, the following exchange from the interview explains exactly how the game started - partly notable because Guitar Hero III's use of Konami patents further underlines the direct lineage to Guitar Freaks: How did [the Guitar Hero] project concept emerge? Rob Kay: RedOctane had been talking to Harmonix for a while. It was a rental company and then they made dance mats for DDR [Dance Dance Revolution]. It ended up selling a bundle of these dance mats and wanted to progress that side of its business. The company was interested in making a guitar game as they'd seen Guitar Freaks, which Konami had done. So they came to Harmonix with the request, "will you make us a great guitar game for our new piece of guitar hardware?" The peripheral led the project? Yes. At that time, Konami hadn't released Guitar Freaks in the US, and I don't think RedOctane had any particularly grand ambitions other than needing a game. Relatively speaking, it was a pretty low-budget game -- about a million dollars, which is pretty tiny as a game budget. We had a team that had just been freed up, as we'd just finished AntiGrav. This seemed like an awesome project. Everyone here was really psyched to work on a rock guitar game; it really fitted in with people's interests here. No one had any notions about it being a massive success; we all just thought it would be fun to do. In relation to these comments, it's clear that Harmonix took the ball and ran with it to create Guitar Hero, which has a style and appropriateness for the West that is quite distinct from Konami's music games. However, Kay's comments may lend further credence to claims of lack of major creative input from RedOctane on initial versions of the series. Activision and RedOctane have been keen to dispel these as they position the franchise as workable without Harmonix's input - which indeed it has been from a sales perspective on Guitar Hero III, thanks to Neversoft's execution of the non-Harmonix sequel, as the Boston developer moved on to Rock Band. The extended interview with Kay is now available on Gamasutra, including more fascinating details on the genesis of the first iteration of the smash hit franchise.

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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