The "Guitar Hero" Will Now Take Your Questions

Alex Rigopulos started playing video games at 3 years old on a Magnavox Odyssey console, and has been an avid gamer ever since.

He earned his B.S. in music from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his M.S. from the computer music group of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory. In 1995, he co-founded the video-game development company Harmonix with the goal of letting even the most musically challenged people experience the “unique joy” of music making. He’d been obsessed with this idea since writing his master’s thesis on “encoding the essence of music into software.”


Today, Harmonix’s best-known games,
Guitar Hero
and Rock Band, are played in basements and living rooms worldwide; some say they are even helping revive the music industry.

In addition to running Harmonix with co-founder Eran Egozy, Rigopulos rocks out with his brothers in the real-life rock band Yeast. This year, Rigopulos and Egozy were named in Time‘s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Rigopulos has agreed to answer questions from Freakonomics readers, so have your way with him. As always, we will post his answers here in short course.

As someone who grew up playing lots of air guitar (or, more precisely, tennis-racket guitar), to everything from “September” (Earth Wind and Fire) to “Train in Vain” (the Clash), and then spent a bunch more years playing a real guitar and having an absolute blast, I cannot wait to hear your questions and Alex’s answers.

Finally: happy holidays. I am guessing at least a few thousand of you will be caressing a new plastic guitar before the week is over.

Addendum: Rigopulos answers your questions here.

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  1. Gannon says:

    How much of a struggle was it to convince publishers that Guitar Hero was something worth financing? I know it’s huge now, but until then, peripheral-based games almost as a rule didn’t sell very well.

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  2. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    How difficult is it to arrange for the legal rights to use the music? Are there any artists who do not want to license their music to you, at any price — and if so, what reasons do they give for that?

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  3. BSK says:

    Do you foresee yourself venturing into any other genres of music with similar or wildly different games/simulators? I have heard rumors about a “Rap Band” game, though have not seen anything concrete. I think it would be fantastic to see other genres and different instruments explored, either through add-on’s to the current games or via new games.

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  4. john says:

    Where do you think Konami dropped the ball on bringing over GuitarFreaks and DrumMania? When did you feel it was appropriate to implement the core idea, and market it? Were there any major patent struggles? How is DJ Hero coming along?

    (For those who don’t know Konami had started a similar line of games involving guitar/bass/drums in 1998, and yet never had the insight to bring the games over to the US until Guitar Hero/Rock Band had already taken off. Konami’s re-casting of their games to the American marketplace has not fared as well).

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  5. Bryce says:

    Can you share the process of a song being charted for the game? How many different job functions are involved and what do they do?

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  6. kdg says:

    Were you surprised by some of the people who have really embraced GH? Have some of these unexpected audiences influenced later versions?

    Thanks for a really fun game, by the way. :)

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  7. Cory says:

    When will there be a U2-based Rock Band or Guitar Hero release?

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  8. thom says:

    Do you envision music oriented videogames in which points are awarded for music composition, improvising, or other elements of creativity?

    When will we see Jazz Band?

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