News Article

Microsoft Execs Thought They Owned Donkey Kong After Acquiring Rare

Posted by Andy Green

Conker's Bad Fur Day director tells an amusing tale

Back in 2002 Microsoft forked out $375 million to acquire UK-based developer Rare, which had previously enjoyed a long prosperous period with Nintendo.

Of course that meant all of Rare's intellectual properties went along for the ride, including Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie. However, according to Chris Seavor, former Rare employee and the director behind Conker's Bad Fur Day, a few Microsoft executives also thought they'd picked up Donkey Kong as well, since the developer had made classic titles such as Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64.

Speaking on Twitter, Seavor said a few of the top-brass at Microsoft came for a tour around the studios and upon seeing Donkey Kong posters proceeded to get excited about owning the franchise - until Rare corrected them.

Naturally, Microsoft would have known it wouldn't be getting Donkey Kong, however certain executives within the company clearly thought otherwise. Perhaps they thought the firm would own James Bond too.

Seavor also went on to say Nintendo is "sitting on prime real estate" with its Star Fox franchise and we're sure many fans of Star Fox 64 would agree.

While he's no longer involved with Rare, Seavor is still working hard in the industry and now applies his craft at Gory Detail, which is bringing The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup to the Wii U and 3DS eShop. You can read more about that game in our exclusive interview with the man himself.

What are your thoughts on the Microsoft executives believing their company owned the rights to DK? Sound off the comment section below.

Thanks to Ryan Millar for the tip!

[via examiner.com]

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User Comments (129)

BMDNERD

#2

BMDNERD said:

I find that hilarious. Donkey Kong on Xbox? I feel like that would have been a game changer.

Zodiak13

#11

Zodiak13 said:

Proof you don't really have to know anything to be near the top of a major company. The top brass of my company know next to nothing about what my collueges and I do. Amazing.

DestinyMan

#15

DestinyMan said:

Never! It sounded like Microsoft got a flash of greed at that moment.

Donkey Kong is 100% Nintendo with or without Rare, and he has been with Nintendo almost since the beginning of their work in video games. Rare didn't create Donkey Kong; they just grew the character. For Microsoft to think that they could've somehow owned Donkey Kong after buying Rare is not only funny, but also despicable.

ritsuka666

#16

ritsuka666 said:

Lol are they MS really that stupid? It doesn’t really surprise me though… . lol

i edited your comment because 1) generalisations such are yours are a dangerous thing and 2) it is insulting and inciteful. stupidity doesn't respect national boundaries: there is plenty to go around the world. -k8smum

One-Winged-Pit

#19

One-Winged-Pit said:

Nintendo should have bought Rare, then their games would still be good and we would have a SEQUEL TO CONKER TOO.

Royalblues

#20

Royalblues said:

They would have somehow turned that series into an FPS. Stupid. Donkey Kong was a character that existed WAY before Rare made DKC.

Swiket

#21

Swiket said:

It's pretty clear from this story that this was just some high-level Microsoft executive that didn't know much about video games. Can you really fault a single Microsoft executive for that? Especially when Microsoft is a huge corporation that covers a large variety of products.

Psychomalone

#22

Psychomalone said:

@One-Winged-Pit not necessarily, Starfox adventures was their last release on a Nintendo hom console, and was 'meh' at the best of times, and certainly far from the highs achieved with goldeneye, perfect dark and banjo kazooie

Psychomalone

#23

Psychomalone said:

At the very least, they recognized Donkey Kong, so they couldn't have been TOTALLY clueless....

Kaine_Morrison

#25

Kaine_Morrison said:

I loved StarFox Adventures!
Also, I wonder if that was the TRUE reason as to why Microsoft bought Rare!

WingedSnagret

#29

WingedSnagret said:

Thank goodness that never happened. Poor DK would've been utterly destroyed by Microsoft had they got their greedy hands on him.

Shiryu

#31

Shiryu said:

It's off like Donkey Kong! This is why we have triple facepalms, people.

bizcuthammer

#32

bizcuthammer said:

Sometimes i wonder what could have been if nintendo hadn't been stupid enough to let rare go. The two companies needed each other, and both have hurt since microsoft bought rare. Though clearly rare hurts more, nintendo doesnt have that great developer coming up with new IPs with humor and great gameplay anymore. Retro has done well, but i'd take Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker over most of Retro's stuff (except maybe the first metroid prime). Rare not only did what Retro does by revitalizing old nintendo IPs like DK and Star Fox, it also came up with its own great games, and did so more than once every 3 years like Retro does. Retro makes great stuff, but it takes them forever. In a span of 11 years, Retro has put out 5 games. In the span of 1997-2002 (5 years) Rare put out Diddy Kong Racing, Killer Instinct Gold, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Tooie, Donkey Kong 64, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark, and Star Fox Adventures. Thats 10 games in half the time its taken Retro to make 5. And all 10 of those games were good and fun to play. Why nintendo ever let that amount of quality production go, i'll never be dumb enough to understand.

Rief

#33

Rief said:

It seems those MS-Guys weren't satisfied with destroying only one of Rares Franchises.

Ballordie01

#34

Ballordie01 said:

Can you imagine a star fox game where the gamepad can be used as the pilot seeing the game from a cockpit point of view !! All from the gamepad!!!

bahooney

#35

bahooney said:

@Psychomalone But you're forgetting the greats of Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo, Viva Pinata, and BK: N&B. I know people love to be bent out of shape about the M$ buyout and then go on a rant remembering the "good old days" of Rare... but honestly? Other than Kinect $ports, triple-a title after triple-a title from the fine devs at Rare. I proudly own every post-M$ Rare title and love them to death (except for PDZ and KS1+2 of course).

hydeks

#38

hydeks said:

falls on the floor, pointing and laughing hysterically at Microsoft OMG, Microsoft is SOOO sad! lol Seriously, is anyone at Microsoft actually a gamer or do they just love anyway of getting money? :P

shredmeister

#40

shredmeister said:

I don't see this issue as black-and-white. For example, Donkey Kong country has been pulled off the Wii Shop. And Killer Instinct is going to be a launch game for Xbox One.

Parkavenue359

#41

Parkavenue359 said:

What if Microsoft wasn't corrected and they ported DKC to Xbox live arcade. Imagine the law suits that would cause!!

AltDotNerd

#43

AltDotNerd said:

If Microsoft owned Donkey Kong 64:
"The first Golden Banana will be free, the remaining 200 will be available through DLC."

Pachterkid

#48

Pachterkid said:

Just goes to show you how clueless Microsoft execs are.

But now all I'm thinking about is a new Star Fox game for the Wii U. Maybe Nintendo will surprise us with that at next year's E3.

banacheck

#49

banacheck said:

I would think you would have to be pretty stupid to believe that, you don't get to Microsofts level not knowing what you do and do not own. In other news Microsoft have created the first flying pig, no really.

alandd

#50

alandd said:

Rare were an amazing studio, even before Nintendo came along. Ultimate play the game, groundbreaking titles.

Jukilum

#51

Jukilum said:

I wonder if "we own Donkey Kong right?" were the exact words the guy used. If so it sounds like he wasn't sure.

miletich3

#54

miletich3 said:

That somewhat explains Nintendo's motive to remove the DKC trilogy from the Wii Shop Channel.

Kyloctopus

#55

Kyloctopus said:

With all the DK posters, you would think Rare really doesn't want to work with MS. I wonder if Rare's departure with Nintendo was anything like this.

Goginho

#56

Goginho said:

What would happen to Rare if the XBox were to fail, cause it's not looking all too swell for the company at the moment (I suppose)? Hopefully that wouldn't mean Rare's doom either, seeing as how they established some stellar and significant characters such as Banjo and Conker..

LordGeovanni

#57

LordGeovanni said:

Two things that everyone should know about M$:

*1 - M$ expects to control all forms of computer technology and expects companies to get out of their way. If they fail to do so, they will do everything in their power to ruin those companies.
*2 - M$ is greedy. Even worse than what is listed above. They will not only attempt to ruin your company or outright buy it. They will also go through underhanded mudslinging if they have to.

Proof of such? M$ expected the internet technology and tele-communications to be "inherited" by themselves. Google stepped up and that is why M$ is doing everything to undermine them at every step. "Bing it On"? Exactly a focus on attacking Google's stronghold. This article does NOT surprise me at all. I actually thought that M$ actually was aiming for DK with the purchase when it happened...

@Goginho Unfortuniately, (I have NEVER liked the xBox, half due to the games and half due to M$ being the owner), all the people that I talk to since the XBox 180 announcement seem to be in love with the XBox and company again. I really see these sheep buying into the M$ dream once again...

Relias

#58

Relias said:

Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't Rare behind Jet Force Gemini... and who owns that Nintendo.. or Rare if that is the case... that would have been a franchise Microsoft could have done something with... well.. actually after playing Perfect Dark on XBOX.. maybe it's better they didn't.. However if the big N owns it.. right about now would be a good time to bring back a fondly remembered title.. (Hint Hint)

Shambo

#60

Shambo said:

Imagine how many ways DK could have gotten messed up, like other n64 favourites from rare have been on x360... The horrors...

LavaTwilight

#61

LavaTwilight said:

Proves that just because they're making a fortune in money it doesn't make them intelligent... or likable.

Tysamu

#62

Tysamu said:

MS, you'll have to try much MUCH harder to take a franchise that is apparently under Ninten's wing.

Pianist88

#66

Pianist88 said:

I am confident that Microsoft's legal team (probably more like an army) was and is always fully aware as to what belongs to them when pursuing these types of exchanges. It seems a little short-sighted to suggest that the company really believed they owned the rights to DK. This is just one guy who may not even have had any true decision-making power that simply recognized a popular character.

JusticeColde

#70

JusticeColde said:

Untitled
Oh Micro$oft

No wonder the Xbox One was announced the way it was, they don't know anything about games.

Rafie

#71

Rafie said:

Wow! I have to say that was pretty dumb of the higher ups to think that they would get Donkey Kong, when most of them were old enough to know that Donkey Kong and Mario were both Nintendo's first franchises. I can't defend that. LOL

Relias

#75

Relias said:

And the Headline to follow this... Microsoft was interested in buying Capcom thinking they would get The Legend of Zelda.. :P

Henmii

#76

Henmii said:

"Microsoft Execs Thought They Owned Donkey Kong After Acquiring Rare"

You can't have everything, Microsoft!!

DESS-M-8

#77

DESS-M-8 said:

This is almost as bad as the CEO of Sega of America turning now plans for streets of rage 4 as he'd never heard of streets of rage

Meaty-cheeky

#78

Meaty-cheeky said:

After the Xbox One event I realized that everyone left on the Xbox team aren't gamers any more. J Allard and many others don't work for Microsoft any more. The Xbox team is sadly only left with corporate suits that only care about money, and they don't give a rats donkey about the gamers that have supported them.

Meaty-cheeky

#81

Meaty-cheeky said:

Microsoft only now cares about shooting / killing games, and their letting many good franchise games to just rot and die.

For example
1. Banjo kazooie
2. Grabbed by the ghoulies
3. Kameo
4. Conker
5.Viva Piñata
6. Mechassault
7. Crimson sky's

Donkey Kong would have been on this list, if Microsoft would have gotten the rights for DK.

Yrreiht

#82

Yrreiht said:

Damn good thing they didn't. No one touches DK unless it's Nintendo or Retro Studio >=(

Kelevra

#84

Kelevra said:

@bizcuthammer it was all good until you said about the whole "only the first Metroid Prime", all Metroid Primes, DK Returns and MK7 were very good. And strongly agree with you, that was the second most stupid thing Nintendo has donde, the first one was shoting down Sony with the SNES-CD, consequence of that the birth of Playstation.

Williaint

#85

Williaint said:

@Kelevra
I think the Nintendo "Play Station" was a folly. If it actually went through...? The PSX wouldn't Exist. Perhaps even the Virtual Boy wouldn't exist, and the Phillips CD i wouldn't have any popularity. Sega could be in a much different place. Who knows what changes the Xbox would have, if it would even exist if Microsoft hadn't purchased Bungie and Halo.

When they got Rare, they got Rare's IP's like Battletoads, which is one thing they should be resurrecting, Perfect dark... Banjo Kazooie.
Many of the reputable people from Rare left, anyway, before Microsoft bought them, so I never thought it was a big problem. Sure, Perfect Dark and Banjo kazooie were a big loss, as far as I've heard... they weren't that great...

Gregor

#88

Gregor said:

@One-Winged-Pit
Excuse me? Retro made DKCR which was brilliant and Rare has lost all of their best people. So I'm sorry to say that you're comment will be viewed in the eyes of many people, as stupid.

LUIGITORNADO

#90

LUIGITORNADO said:

This is what I've been missing! I've been going for IGN for my Nintendo news for years, and as of lately I really been disappointed with how little Nintendo content they have.

I'm so happy someone recommended this site to me!

Kelevra

#92

Kelevra said:

@Williaint man, I totally forgot about Battletoads, agreed on Banjo, now Perfect Dark. I loved that game, just like Goldeneye.

shredmeister

#93

shredmeister said:

@alandd

Thanks for the reply. I guess Killer Instinct was only published by Nintendo but not copyrighted. But there still lies an uncertainty for the reasons why Nintendo pulled the Donkey Kong Country trilogy off of the Wii Shop. Was it copyright infringement on certain intellectual properties? If not, then it's just plain sillyness to take out three of the best selling games in the VC.

TrueWiiMaster

#95

TrueWiiMaster said:

Sounds about right for Microsoft higher-ups. I wonder if these are the same guys that thought blocking used games was a good idea...

StarDust4Ever

#96

StarDust4Ever said:

Nintendo licensed Donkey Kong to RARE. Microsoft buys RARE. Nintendo revokes RARE's Donkey Kong License.

BTW, did this have anything to do with the DKC games getting pulled from VC?

kyuubikid213

#97

kyuubikid213 said:

If that was the case, how come Microsoft wasn't attempting to make any Donkey Kong games? Buy RARE and let good games die? That's one way to cripple the competition...

RollingFishays

#99

RollingFishays said:

They wish. No Microsoft, you're not awesome enough for Donkey Kong. Not even if you really, REALLY believe.

LordGeovanni

#101

LordGeovanni said:

@Kelevra @Williaint
The Nintendo "Play Station" is one of the worse mentioned ideas that I have ever found when referencing video games. As far as I am able to find, the story (from my research in 2004) was that Nintendo backed out of the completed project at the last moment and screwed over Sony who then went and made their own Playstation to get back at Big N.

I was actually re-researching recently and actually found out that SONY was the one trying to screw Nintendo. The contract that Sony drafted for the purposes of completing the console and starting production had Sony and Nintendo share the profits of any of the games that were made as a cartridge. In comparison, the also installed disc drive would have ALL the games get published by "Sony" and NOT Nintendo. That would force all the money into Sony's hand and Nintendo would get nothing. Additionally, Sony would also have claim and right to ANY IPs that were not released as a cartridge. So if a game was later release solely as a disc, Sony would be able to dispute claims relatively soon. Considering that Nintendo didn't want disc due to the ease of Pirating them and the rampant pirating of the PS (original) games, I think Nintendo was justified in breaking the contract.

MadAdam81

#102

MadAdam81 said:

@Meaty-cheeky Mech Assault is the worst Mech game ever. MWO and Mech Tactics are much better, but pity no-one can buy the license to Battletech Universe from MS, so games can appear on other consoles - such as Wii U.

dumedum

#104

dumedum said:

By the way, it is pretty obvious that Nintendo is planning some big release of the DKC trilogy on Wii U, probably before Tropical Freeze. They pulled it out so people won't complain they paid money for the Wii VC version. Like they redeemed club nintendo coins back.

Luffymcduck

#105

Luffymcduck said:

@bizcuthammer
This, you´re absolutely correct. This is what I am missing. Rare made a lot more games than Retro has, and most of them are still great classics. Imagine N64 without Rare: would have been nice to wait for a year to get a next game from Nintendo. Rare was that who saved N64´s dry seasons, the one´s that didn´t have big releases from Big N. Also those IP´s... Retro Studios has made a fantastic job with Metroid and Donkey Kong but I still would like to see something completely new from them.

Frapp

#106

Frapp said:

What's more amazing is that an exec actually recognised a videogame character that wasn't Mario or Sonic.

Araknie

#107

Araknie said:

Yeah, right like where is the long awaited Nintendo Polystation 2?

BTW, now i know that Microsoft was drunk even back when they started the home console market.

AJWolfTill

#113

AJWolfTill said:

This is pretty much the equivelent of purchasing the rights to the Terminator Film Franchise and thinking you own Arnold Schwarzenegger XD

element187

#115

element187 said:

LOL, figures... Any gaming company would KILL to own that franchise.. it literally prints money.. Its the biggest reason why Retro wanted to do another DK title over Metroid... Metroid might have been a labor of love with its measely 500k copies sold, but DK literally printed money with its 5million copies sold.

DarkEdi

#116

DarkEdi said:

Microsoft always had idiots working with them, so no surprise they thought they could own DK, James Bond or Star Fox franchises.

tanookisuit

#117

tanookisuit said:

That's hilarious they had genius of that level on the board at MS. Nintendo just isn't that dumb to hand over their mascots they had Rare working on, even at that price tag. I still get amusement seeing how badly Rare has failed and floundered since that colossal screw up of a buy out.

WinterWarm

#118

WinterWarm said:

Bill Gates:

"B-but I wanted to have a Donkey Kong game on XboxOne so if I wanted to I could immediately end their right to 'license' it.... WAAAAAAAAH!"

crobatman

#120

crobatman said:

I want Rare to relive their glory days and make another beautiful game!!! They can bounce back from such hardships, I mean look at Naughty Dog, they lost Crash Bandicoot and then they went on to make Uncharted and The Last of Us.
I am just glad that Nintendo likes to keep integrity with all of their franchises, I wonder what would happen if Game Freak tried to break away from Nintendo :/

Henmii

#122

Henmii said:

"I mean look at Naughty Dog, they lost Crash Bandicoot and then they went on to make Uncharted and The Last of Us"

They didn't lose Crash Bandicoot, but sold the franchise! I still think that's a strange decision! After that they came with Jak and Daxter, wich they also sold (If I am correct). Now they are just making "mature" games. And now they even have jumped on the "Zombies" bandwagon!

The same is happening with Insomniac: From Ratchet and Clank to Fuse!

Quite frankly they are all abandoning family-friendly games/3D free-roaming platformers and I think that's pretty sad!!

SmaMan

#123

SmaMan said:

Just think of the alternate universe where Microsoft DOES get Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong Country returns would come with just Donkey Kong. Wanna play with Diddy, Trixie, or anyone else? That'll be 400 Microsoft Points. Wanna hold more than 50 bananas? 80 points. Want to play the other half of the game? 800 points. And the core game would be available at retail and download for $60.

LordGeovanni

#125

LordGeovanni said:

@Kelevra

Sorry it took a while to respond, I was away from my computer for a few days due to a lot of work.

Anyway, I was re-introduced to the topic due to an article on TVTropes. From there, I got interested in the research of the project "Nintendo Play Station" and decided to reexamine the data to see if the anger against Nintendo was real or not...

The TVTropes link is here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/SNESCDROM

While that was not the only data that I found, the rest was in too few pieces per page for me to rediscover all of them...

Kelevra

#126

Kelevra said:

Read article, very interesting indeed, and yeah I remember about squaresoft going to Sony because of the whole CDROM vs. Cartridge thing and fully agree about the whole censorship thing, Nintendo does take it too far, like recently with Fire Emblem which I think it was very unnecesary. And also remember how frustrated I was with the N64, everyone else using CDROM, still using cartridge, but that faded away almost immediately, I really loved my N64 specially the controller, and I loved the library, it was awesome.

LordGeovanni

#127

LordGeovanni said:

@Kelevra
It does send the entire topic on a far different spin. Now I am angry at Early!PlayStation when I really didn't see a problem with it before...

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