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Music game decline wasn't entirely Activision's fault, says Harmonix CEO

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Harmonix co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos doesn't fully chalk up the decline of the music game genre to Activision flooding the market with Guitar Hero titles, he said in a Reddit AMA today.

Asked if he believes that the genre's demise was "entirely the fault of Activision," Rigopulos said, "I think there's probably some truth to the notion that Activision 'over-published' Guitar Hero." But, he continued, "Reality is always more complicated than this."

Rigopulos pointed out that peripheral-based music games were "the most expensive video games on the market during a brutal recession," and went on to say that Harmonix and its Rock Band franchise, along with Activision and Guitar Hero (image above), failed to innovate enough to sustain their respective franchises and the genre.

"I also don't think that either GH or RB delivered enough (or the right kind of) evolution of the experience in the years that followed the initial releases — something we hope to address at some point in the next outing," he said. It's unclear if he was referring to Harmonix's next game, or a future return to the Rock Band franchise.

"It's Harmonix's job to figure out new ways for music and gameplay to amplify each other's emotional power"

Rigopulos expressed the same sentiment in a reply to a different question, a query about whether he was sad to see the genre fall by the wayside. "Music games need to evolve just like every aspect of pop culture," said Rigopulos. "It's Harmonix's job to figure out new ways for music and gameplay to amplify each other's emotional power."

Harmonix is currently working on two music games that are very different from Rock Band: Fantasia: Music Evolved, a Kinect-based title that allows players to mash up different versions of the same song to create their own music, and Chroma, a musical first-person shooter. The studio is also attempting to raise $775,000 on Kickstarter to fund the development of a follow-up to its 2003 title Amplitude.