Harmonix Music Systems (or simply Harmonix) is a video game development company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States. They are known for their many highly acclaimed and top-selling music video games.
Harmonix is best known as the developer of Rock Band as well as the original developer of the Guitar Hero series up until Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, which Neversoft developed, along with future Guitar Hero titles.
The company's earliest product was The Axe: Titans of Classic Rock on PC CD-ROM. The Axe enabled consumers to easily perform unique instrumental solos by using a PC joystick. Harmonix then designed "CamJam", which performed similar functions, this time using simple body gestures to trigger music sequences. CamJam was utilized at Disney theme parks.
In 1997, the Harmonix team focused on Japan. There, the first music video games were becoming increasingly popular and successful. These games included PaRappa the Rapper, Beatmania, and Dance Dance Revolution; all of which focused on bringing musical experiences to gamers through simple, understandable interfaces commonly found in games. It was these games that inspired Harmonix to develop its first music video game, FreQuency, which began development in 1999.
To develop FreQuency, Rigopulos and Egozy formed a larger team, finding many of their new employees to be musicians. Featuring songs by a number of underground electronica artists, FreQuency allowed players to perform and remix a variety of music. The game was backed by SCEA Vice President of Product Development, Shuhei Yoshida. Released in 2001 on the PlayStation 2, FreQuency was critically acclaimed and won numerous awards, though it failed to become a mainstream success. Harmonix developed the a sequel to FreQuency, Amplitude, released in 2003. Several changes were made from its predecessor to broaden the game's appeal, from gameplay tweaks to a more mainstream soundtrack. And again, Amplitude achieved awards, critical praise, and a small cult following, but it was not a financial hit.
After Amplitude, Harmonix teamed up with Konami to create the Karaoke Revolution franchise. Konami, known for their Bemani line of music games, published the Karaoke Revolution titles, of which Harmonix developed and released three "volumes" between 2003 and 2004.
Also in 2004, Sony Computer Entertainment released the Harmonix project EyeToy: AntiGrav. A departure from music games, the title used the PlayStation 2 EyeToy camera peripheral to enable one's body to perform as a controller for a futuristic extreme sports game.
In 2005, publisher RedOctane released the Harmonix-developed game Guitar Hero. The game features similar gameplay elements to FreQuency and Amplitude, also owing some inspiration from Konami's own guitar-based video game series GuitarFreaks. Like GuitarFreaks, Guitar Hero uses a guitar-shaped controller designed uniquely for the game. Specifically, the Guitar Hero controller was designed with five color-coded "fret" buttons and a "strum bar". Guitar Hero became largely successful, both critically and commercially, resulting in the well-received 2006 sequel Guitar Hero II, also developed by Harmonix.
In September 2006, MTV Networks announced that it was acquiring Harmonix on behalf of MTV for $175 million. Harmonix's last Guitar Hero game for RedOctane, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, was released in July 2007, thus fulfilling their contractual obligations with the publisher.
Harmonix released Rock Band in November 2007. As Harmonix's first game as a part of MTV, Rock Band expanded upon the design of Guitar Hero by incorporating three different peripherals: guitar/bass, microphone, and drums. Harmonix continuned to support the game after its initial release by offering a variety of downloadable songs to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 players on a weekly basis. As of July 1, 2008, over 150 songs have been made available as downloadable content, with over 15 million songs sold. Rock Band 2, released on the Xbox 360 in September 2008, features improved instrument peripherals and updated features while still being compatible with all original Rock Band downloadable songs.
Harmonix has assembled a modest IP portfolio, which includes:
Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. and MTV Games Make a Donation to Starlight and Bring Rock Band(R) to Thousands of Seriously Ill Children.
Mar 10, 2009; Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. and MTV Games are making a generous minimum $50,000 gift to Starlight Children's Foundation to bring...
Anyone Can Jam Like a Pro With The Axe from Harmonix.(Harmonix Music Systems' Axe Volume 1) (Hardware Review)(Evaluation)
Jul 01, 1998; If you can whistle a tune but can't play a note, then The Axe Volume 1 might be right up your alley. This innovative program from...
US Patent Issued to Harmonix Music Systems on July 19 for "Displaying an Input at Multiple Octaves" (Massachusetts Inventors)
Jul 25, 2011; ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 25 -- United States Patent no. 7,982,114, issued on July 19, was assigned to Harmonix Music Systems Inc....