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Ex-Rare Staff Talk Nintendo, Microsoft and Where It All Changed

Posted by James Newton

Going places

Many long-standing Nintendo fans have a special place in their hearts for Rare, the British developer responsible for Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, Jet Force Gemini and more. In 1994 Nintendo bought a 49% stake in the developer, guiding it to create hit after hit, but in 2002 the studio was bought outright by Microsoft, spelling the end of a particularly fruitful collaboration.'s recent article Who Killed Rare? talks to the people most affected by the buyout and assesses its aftermath. Former Rare employee Justin Cook believes comparing the studio's past and present is fruitless:

You can't compare 'old' and 'new' Rare because the comparison is no more valid than comparing steam engines to bullet trains. What is incredible is that Rare still exists. It is still making high-quality games that millions of people play. There have been bigger and more successful studios but there aren't many that are still in business and going strong. Rare is a survivor and as we approach the next massive upheaval in the games industry it would be foolish to write off a studio as talented and adaptable as Rare.

While Rare has had considerable sales success with Kinect Sports, many still hold the developer's previous output in far higher regard, due in no small part to the close relationship it held with Nintendo.


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User Comments (76)



Zach said:

I dunno, Banjo Kazooie is to Kinect Sports as steam engines are to bullet trains? I guess I'm a little bit steampunk then.



ThrowdownN64 said:

Good ol' Rareware, I've never owned a Xbox so correct me if I'm wrong but pretty much after Rare was bought by Microsoft, they really haven't made a good (like Donkey Kong country or Goldeneye good) game since right?



ThomasBW84 said:

Rare games on Nintendo will always have a sentimental quality for those of a certain age, including myself. Times change though, and I hope they continue to survive and get stronger as a developer. They must be doing something right for Microsoft to give them Kinect Sports, so a bright future is certainly on the cards.



Whopper744 said:

They made some of the best games out there when they were with Nintendo. Love the first Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie, all they did with Donkey Kong, and just about everything else they did.



misswliu81 said:

i played kinnect sports a year, 2 years ago in game or HMV. it was one of those stores. didn't like it, i felt and looked foolish waving my hands and legs about.

it is rather sad what they have become of now, considering the great stuff they did with nintendo all those years ago.



The_Ink_Pit_Ox said:

The fate of Rare is nothing compared to that of Sierra. They went from creating awesome adventure games to crappy games for other franchises. Thank god Telltale is rebooting King's Quest.



NintyMan said:

Sadly, they just weren't the same when Microsoft bought them out. The people behind their greatest hits went elsewhere, so there's no telling what would've happened if they had stayed with Nintendo. Games like Donkey Kong Racing and Banjo-Threeie might have come off the drawing board. I'm not going to state who's to blame for all of this, but clearly their work with Microsoft leaves something to be desired, even if Kinect Sports is selling all right.

In the meantime, their legacy lives on in my memories of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Banjo-Kazooie, and Diddy Kong Racing.



Shiryu said:

I miss not only Rare of before, but the golden age of 8 and 16 bits in general.



Henmii said:

"What is incredible is that Rare still exists"

If Microsoft determines that it's over, it's over. Not much to be proud about!

"It is still making high-quality games that millions of people play"

I wouldn't call a Wii-sports rip-off high quality. Especially since it has nothing "Rare" in it. Could be made by anyone!

"but there aren't many that are still in business and going strong"

Well, there is Nintendo of course. And Capcom. And EA. And Blizzard. And....should I go on?



shingi_70 said:


Threeie is rumored to be their next project.

But yeah most people who hate modern rare either hate Microsoft or have never played rhose games in question.



DarkEdi said:

Rare went down when it left Nintendo. Without Nintendo they lose charm and creativity. Name please a couple of iconic titles since they left Nintendo. I can´t count any single one. All iconic titles where in Nintendo era.



Azooooz said:

I still have Rare's best N64 games such as DK64 and Banjo-Tooie. Man, Rare would still be the best if it had stayed with Nintendo



Slapshot said:

RARE did an Amazing job implementing the Avatars into XBLA and their Kinect games are pretty dang good as well. I'd say that RARE is doing quite well for themselves.



sykotek said:

TL;DR version: Rare killed Rare.

I'm not 100% sure who owns it Nintendo or Rare (pretty sure Rare), but I miss Killer Instinct.



Alexneon said:

@17 Kameo sucks big time.
nuts and bolts cmon banjo kazooie is much better than that.
viva piñata -.-
Avatars ROFL



Einherjar said:

Yep, it IS incredible that Rare still exists...with such a lousy game line up -.- My girlfried is quite fond of Viva Pinata and i must say, its not a bad but quite shalow simulation game. Also, i liked nuts and bolts a lot, but not because of the BK cast but because of the game itself. But both games are by no means a reson to buy a 360 for. That said, i would still pay a hefty price for nintendo bound rare titles, such as BK 1 and 2.
If they dont find back to their roots, they will never make it back on a "best developer" list any time soon. They could be gone by tomorrow and nobody would notice or even care.



Mk_II said:

Rare used to be called Ultimate Play The Game. They made the very best ZX Spectrum games like Atic Atac and JetPac, the very first computer I ever bought back in 1983. Happy days!



ThreadShadow said:

"What is incredible is that Rare still exists." I think that's a very appropriate statement. While new Rare hasdone well, they hardly compare to old Rare. I like the Avatars they are quite well done and Sports looks fun, but I haven't played it yet. I think that they may have outdone Nintendo in regards to avatars. Nuts & Bolts is fun, and well done. I like the graphical style of Viva Pinata even though I don't play them.

One thing about Rares depature from Nintendo. It seems that everyone who made Rare Rare left before the MS buyout, so there really was no reason for Nintendo to hold onto them just for the name.

On the other hand it seems (this is by no means the truth), that Nintendo started slapping them in the face. Pasting StarFox into DP as an example. And I get a sense of abandonment. Rare had essentially kept Nintendo afloat during the hard 64bit days, and then the GC came out, eastern devs initially flocked back promising Nintendo the moon, and Nintendo dumps Rare as fast as they can.

Anyway, Nintendo doesn't need rare back because rare isn't the Rare we all remember, they still do good work, but they aren't the same company.



aaronsullivan said:

I want a new Diddy Kong Racing and it just can't happen.
I'd also like a new Jet Force Gemini. sigh.
Banjo was great! Banjo Tooie was not. In fact Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo Tooie show me that Rare was already on their way down before Microsoft bought them out.



komicturtle said:

Microsoft needs to be more strict on Rare like Nintendo was. They seem to be slacking off in terms of the quality in their games- they have the talent. They should be using it.



Linkuini said:

Must we be so fixated on Rare as it used to be? A lot of their staff have come and gone since the dawn of Donkey Kong Country.

In my case, I haven't played any of their recent games, so I'm not one to comment on their quality. One thing I can say just from what I've heart about Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is that they still have a knack for good self-referential humor. I've played several games that suggest that's not as easy as Rare makes it look.



JayArr said:

LoL at this Justin Cook guy. Rare is no longer "talented" because they haven't made a memorable game in nearly a decade. "Adaptable" doesn't mean anything but making garbage shovelware to feed to mindless masses for quick money.

They used to be genius and now they're just sell outs. It's sad.



LinktotheFuture said:

I am a big fan of Kinect Sports 1 and 2. They are the only reason I am considering getting and Xbox, which is probably why I haven't gotten one yet. That is a lot of money for only 2 games.



TheN64Dude said:

Nintendo is my idol, but Rare inspired me to start a career in game designing. It makes me sad the way the left behind all their greatest franchises and let Microsoft screw them up! You brought shame to Banjo & Conker fans! Have you forgotten us?



SomeBitTripFan said:

I miss the old Rare! I still play DKC. Now they make mini-games. Rare is dead. It just carries the same name.



TheN64Dude said:

They don't have 1 damn excuse for the way they're going with Banjo & Conker. That is to say they're going anywhere with them



Omarzuqo said:

Even if LJN had developed Kinect Sports, it would have sold the same amount of copies. People buys them because they're casual games, not because RARE developed them.

The truth is, RARE is no longer a GOOD developer. Being successful doesn't mean they can make quality games.



shingi_70 said:

Smh at the ignorance and stupidly in this thread.

Yes because rare is no longer original but when nintendo throws out a sequel ghats the same think its a stroke of genius.



Urbanhispanic said:

Rare has NOT been the same since its fallout with Nintendo and then Microsoft buying it exclusively. What has come out since then? A small catalog of games that don't compare to what was released on the N64. Rare has changed but not necessarily for the better.



theblackdragon said:

No offense to Rare, but Omarzuqo is right — it's the same thing with Wii Sports being the 'best-selling video game of all time' or whatever they were saying about it a couple years back. It's a glorified tech demo that comes bundled with the system (at least one of the kinect bundles has it, anyway), thus inflating sales numbers, or it's a quick 'ooo this'll shut the kids up' buy if you don't go for the bundle. Anyone could've developed it and wound up reaping the sales, Rare just happened to be assigned the job apparently.



Kisame83 said:

Rare's best post Microsoft purchase title was the Conker remake lol
And most Conker fans prefer the original



AltDotNerd said:

EVERYTHING Rare made for Microsoft can't hold a candle to the games they made for Nintendo. It's like the episode of Spongebob where Plankton forces Spongebob to work at the Chum Bucket, and the burgers he makes aren't as good. Mr. Krabs=Nintendo, Spongebob=Rare, Plankton=Microsoft.



bonesy91 said:

Rare should come back to Nintendo. Imagine Rare and Retro under one roof. My head explodes thinking of what A new Banjo kazooie game would be like.... but then again, Rare has changed and I'm perfectly happy Retro filled that void with all the Metroid Prime goodness



DarkEdi said:


  • Kameo was created originally for n64 and gamecube, so this was planned years before
  • nuts and bolts is from Banjo-Kazooie, so this is like a secuel
  • Viva pinata, only this i agree, is new and fresh like Rare´s golden ages.
  • avatars are an order from Microsoft to compete with Nintendo, so this doesn´t count like an original idea, it is the same with xbox sports game.


The_Ink_Pit_Ox said:

What I want to see:

Diddy Kong Racing Wii (DKR DS remade for the Wii)
Donkey Kong 64 (it's 99% Nintendo)



Blue_Yoshi said:

Rare sucks now they've surrendered to the casual market. They had a chance with actual sequels for Banjo and Conker but they ruined those with a vehicular based game and a censored port. They really screwed themselves up and should continue to develop games for Nintendo for the 3DS at least. They were supposed to make two game for the DS but only came out with one in the end. Rareware is dead and will never be the same again.



Classeman said:

Rare died when they left Nintendo. That's my opinion!
Rare will never be the same without Nintendo.



zapdinos said:

@shingi_70 Well I played both the latest Banjo and Kinect Sports and i can say they sucked. Banjo was okay-ish, I mean good but didn't have the Banjo feel like the 64 games and Kinect just sucked. Yes because avatars are so creative. Something that is very identical to a Mii and at the time the early stages of Sony's Home. Very original but I'll give you Viva, that is a least a fresh idea. Do you just like fighting and giving crappy examples?



JimLad said:

cough living in denial
Thing is I'm not sure what they could accomplish now even if they did come back to Nintendo with most of the main guys gone.



MachineLaw said:

Nintendo should've kept Rare's properties considering they don't even use them anymore. Banjo and Kazooie, Killer Instinct, Jet Force Gemini, etc. would have made good quality IPs for Nintendo.



SilentHunter382 said:


OMG I hope they make a good job at creating another Kings Quest. Aslong as they don't add Cedric (unless you get an option to cook the annoying F***) then I will be happy.



DarkKirby said:

Banjo Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark were "Bullet Train Rare".

Kinect Sports, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, and Viva Piñata is "Handcar/Pump Trolly Rare".

I don't know what kind if things Microsoft forces Rare to do, but I think they killed themselves around the time they decided to make Conker's Bad Fur Day, a game that was poorly made and overly just focused on disgusting humor. After that it was like they ran out of good ideas didn't know how to make good games anymore.



TheGreenSpiny said:

@57: Conker was Rare's crowning achievement. It was all downhill after that.

My biggest gripe about Nintendo selling Rare is that we can't get all those old Rare games on the VC. Anything they made for the N64 would be awesome.



originaljohn said:

To be honest, I haven't played any of their games... But I do know one thing. Retro Studios are much better than RARE



CerealKiller062 said:

Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, 007, Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Tooie, Star Fox Adventures, and Diddy Kong racing are all the Rareware games that I own. A lot of these are great and I wish that Nintendo and Rare would have kept their partnership. Darn Mircrosoft!



Henmii said:

"Threeie is rumored to be their next project"

I wouldn't bet on it! Their next project most likely will be a variation on their Kinect sports titles.

Rareware has turned into Microsoft it's own casual developer. Even their new Logo screams: "We are not proud anymore. Let us suffer in the shadows!".

A real shame! The strange thing is that when you read their commentary on emails (on their own site), you still get a taste of their typical Rare humor! As if there is still a teensy bit of hope left!



Plusle said:

microsoft should just sell banjo and conker to nintendo and keep rare why because they dont use them anymore my opinion



Raylax said:

Let's just go with an alternate history here (real-world history comparison in brackets):

  • Rare never gets purchased by Microsoft. (Rare gets purchased by Microsoft)
  • Rare produce Banjo & Kazooie Nuts & Bolts on a Nintendo system. Is it the fabled Banjo Threeie? No. But then, Super Mario Sunshine wasn't the fabled Super Mario 128 either. Series always do have an entry or two that fiddle with the core mechanics. (Rare produce and release Nuts & Bolts on 360)
  • Viva Pinata released on Wii. (Viva Pinata released on 360)
  • Nintendo gets them to develop Wii Sports Resort. (Rare develop Kinect Sports)
  • Rare are put in charge of recreating the Mii system for 3DS/Wii U, and come up with Avatars. (Rare develop Avatars system for X-Box 360)

Somehow, there's this slight niggling feeling in the back of my mind that very few of you would be complaining about Rare having gone downhill. If anything, the opposite of that. Stop all being so butthurt that some business happened and now Microsoft own them, lol.



castor said:

@63 But we have to consider that if Microsoft hadn't bought the 51% part of RARE, Nintendo wouldn't have given up on its 49% and all the staff that brought us golden games wouldn't have left. That's just a point of view though.



TheRegginator said:

That employee needs to stop kidding himself. rare is an absolute garbage developer these days and hasn't made a good game in years.



Kage_88 said:

@5 - Yeah, I also have a lot of sentimental love for Rare. I still remember obsessively playing a demo of Banjo-Kazooie at my local electronics store...before being told to get out, lol.

Unfortunately, Rare isn't the same developer of the good old N64 days. The Stamper Brothers left a while back, as well as a lot of the original staff. Nintendo must have saw some decline within the company...I don't know why else they would sell their share to Microsoft (well, aside from the whole '$375 million' thing...)

@59 - Oxymoronic statement much?



MagicEmperor said:

I rarely buy a game from Rare anymore. And by 'rarely'--besides a terrible pun--I mean, 'not anymore.' The last Rare game I bought was B-K: Nuts & Bolts. Yeah. Thank goodness we'll always have the beloved classics, though.



FlaccidSnake said:

@54, I want that NOW!!!
Never gonna happen though. My gave rare games were the first snes DKC and killer instinct



hYdeks said:

The last RARE game I bought was Jet Force Gemini. Ever since RARE left Nintendo, they lost there soul and have become as great of a company as Microsoft is -_-.



Fang said:

Retro Studios is Nintendo's new Rare.
Imagine if Microsoft never bought Rare. Nintendo would be COMPLETELY dominating the gaming world.



Henmii said:

"Retro Studios is Nintendo's new Rare"

Absolutely! Hopefully they stay together pretty long!



Undead_terror said:

@21 yes man,killer instinct was the best fighting game back then and it could of easily been the best today,im suprised no one else mentioned this master piece,i would buy this game(killer instinct 3)over any other fighter with no second thought



The_Ink_Pit_Ox said:

As Star Fox Adventures is 5% Star Fox, is it at all possible for the game to be re-released onto the Wii U?



BigBabaWaba said:

Yes Rare's demise is sad indeed. From what I understand, much of Rare's old talent left to form Free Radical Design in '02 and would go on to make the Timesplitters games which were like the spiritual successors to Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. I'm thankful they gave us games like Battletoads, DKC, Goldeneye, etc. back in their heyday. Old Rare will always be amongst the greatest of game developers.



pastasauce said:

Banjo Kazooie : nuts and bolts was actually a pretty good game. Sadly I think that was rare's signoff from making anything gamer's want. They've gone all casual now.



Nintendoro said:

My favorite title was "Star Fox adventures" on Gamecube, developed by Rare and published by Nintendo. Now that Rare has been bought by MS, i am loosing hopes to ever see "Star Fox adventures 2". Nintendo owns rights of Starfox as a character, but genius behind the game was Rare. "Kameo" has been very much fun that came out with 360, but even that has no plans of a sequel. Oh well....



Meaty-cheeky said:

The only game I liked from Rare when they moved to Microsoft is Grabbed by the Ghoulies. What is Microsoft doing with them why don't they put Rare to work like they did with Bungie!?

Microsoft F***ed us gamers buy getting Rare.
If Rare was still with Nintendo we would still be getting great games like Dokey Kong, Banjo, Killer instinct, Battle Toads, and FPS games like Goldeneye!!!

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