E3 2011: Reality Check - Where Is Rare?

What was once a highly regarded third-party studio has all but completely disappeared from public view.

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Every year, Microsoft pokes its finger into my wounds. Ever since it purchased Rare almost a decade ago, I've been hoping that my favorite developer would regain its rightful place among the industry elite, and every year, I have to suffer the indignity of sitting through press conferences where the company's name isn't even mentioned. Last year, Rare made a small splash by releasing Kinect Sports. It was a predictable response to Nintendo's uberpopular Wii Sports, but the lack of creativity didn't hurt the game's retail sales. To date, it's the highest selling Kinect game of all time and Rare's first breakout hit this century.

I naively thought that this would be a chance for Rare to return to prominence. Developers gain a measure of respect when they churn out a hit, and I've been itching to see what it's capable of when its shackles are removed. I watched this year's conference, wondering if we'd finally see a long-rumored Rare project like Killer Instinct 3. Would we see Rare build on the criminally underselling Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts with a sequel? Or maybe it would unleash a new IP that would make people swoon with joy.

No such luck. In fact, when Kinect Sports Season Two was revealed, it wasn't even a representative from Rare who took the stage. Rather, it was a spokesman from Big Park--the studio codeveloping the game with Rare--which sounds downright insulting when you think about it. The people who once made Blast Corps and Perfect Dark are relegated to part-time duty on a fairly big game. Oh, the inhumanity of it all!

During the show, when I assumed Rare had been ignored entirely in favor of Big Park, I was pretty angry. What happened to my favorite developer and how come it didn't have any games? But now that I know the truth...that it has been given partial duties on a sequel, I'm even more upset. Has it really fallen so low that it can't even be trusted to release a compilation of six sports in a year? Of course, we don't know the full story behind Rare's situation or its workload, but it's still incredibly sad and perhaps the most telling that one of the world's most prominent developers is but a shadow of its former self.

A bear and his bird.

What's most baffling is that, given Microsoft's first-party lineup, this seems like the perfect time to use Rare's talents. Lionhead is good for a Fable game every year or two. 343 Industries holds the reins for the Halo franchise and has two games on the slate (albeit one of them is a remake). And, of course, Turn 10 has the next Forza in the pipe, but other than that, there aren't many other developers in the first-party Xbox 360 stable. Microsoft let Bungie walk to Activision's happy umbrella and the now defunct Bizarre Creations before that. The company also disbanded Ensemble and FASA.

Microsoft needs more first-party support and yet, curiously, Rare seems of little use to it in that regard. At some point, a person with power has to reorganize Rare to ensure it actually makes games again. If it's a Kinect developer, it should be showing off Kinect games, right? If that's not working, maybe it could borrow Double Fine's model and focus on Xbox Live Arcade. Still not working? How about updating its classic games in HD? A developer needs to make games.

In my dream scenario (no matter how unlikely), Microsoft lets Rare walk away. It would team up with Nintendo once more, or maybe form an independent studio, and cater to people who love what it used to do. Given its heritage, Rare deserves a better hand than it has been dealt. I've been pining for a resurrection for years, and I'm not beaten down yet. But I'm coming pretty close.

Discussion

138 comments
Emerald_Warrior
Emerald_Warrior

You know, I love Rare's 2D games like R.C. Pro-Am and the Donkey Kong Country games on SNES. I even liked 007: Goldeneye a lot. But the cutesy 3D platformers where it was just collect everything in sight I wasn't a fan of. I don't understand the huge following for those games.

Booyakz
Booyakz

I can't agree with you enough Tom. I can't understand why Microsoft would reduce the legendary Rare to a Kinect studio in the first place... Though their last few games (refering to Viva Pinata, TIP, and Nuts & Bolts) didn't sell exceptionally, these games are venerated by most gamers that played them. It would make more sense for Microsoft to make Viva Pinata and get Rare to pump out a new game every year or two (like Halo, Gears or Forza). Regardless of our understanding, we can only hope that Microsoft smartens up, or allows Rare to walk away.

jimdotbeep
jimdotbeep

Your preaching to the choir man. I can't tell you how heart broken I was to see what my all time favoirte franchise Banjo-Kazzoie was reduced to in the abomination Banjo-Kazooie "nuts and bolts" I've been hearing that rare has proposed many games to Microsoft and Microsoft is telling them to shove it. Rare supposedly was going to make a A rareware racing game with All our favorite Rare Charecters racing in their own Mario Kart like game.

wexorian
wexorian

Rare games are too rare :D

shrty78_basic
shrty78_basic

Its Rares fault look at the games they made they didnt give us what we wanted

deeshht
deeshht

We invest alot of money n ms thay need to invest in us new iP or nexgen i willn`t give u my money

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

Both xboxes have had the worst first party support a console has ever seen, rare was way better with Nintendo.

vault-boy
vault-boy

I have only played 3 Rare games (maybe more I don't really remember because at the height of their popularity I was 7 at the oldest) and those games are Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye, and Banjo Kazooie and all are some of my favorites. I'm sure if I played more Rare games I would love them to, I would love to get my hands on Perfect Dark, and if they did make a comeback I'm sure they would be amazing (as long as the old developers are still on board). I hope they do come back as either an Xbox exclusive or as at least a PS3/Xbox title and it would kill me to see them go to Nintendo seeing as the Wii U doesn't seem promising for the FPS and 3rd person adventure genre. If they do make a comeback and they do make games for all the consoles I hope that having to work around the Wii U's limited capabilities (lets face it the new Wii is already rumored to be hardly more powerful than the PS3) will make it so that the games have to be watered down to make it so all consoles can play. I'm no expert on the developing of games however, just playing them so maybe they could make great games for all consoles if the do make a comeback... and I'm hoping they do.

CptAsbjoern
CptAsbjoern

I really enjoyed Nuts & Bolts, much more than I had anticipated, since the old B&K games for the N64 were games I played as a child. But the building mechanics were simply brilliant, spent hours making weird contraptions with several stages and modes... I wish Minecraft would implement a vehicle creator on par, then it would be the perfect game :)

plaintomato
plaintomato

Rare hasn't mattered since the N64. As in 64 bits, not a whole lot of bits really. MS paid out the hiney for them and then when the Rare dudes had made their money and served their obligatory time, they split and now Rare is just a name. Nothing. Empty. Gone. A stamp to put on a box, kinda like "Infinity Ward". It's playing Guitar Hero in game history heaven.

XAF1
XAF1

I love the beauty of Rare's games but they lack fun when it comes to game play. I think that it needs structure as a developer and in some ways it lacks that. It has vision obviously. What I mean is when Nintendo owned Rare I have a feeling that it kept a tight reign on most of the games Rare made and it supplied the proper leadership in the right places. I think Nintendo decided to give Rare a chance to prove that it was more than a graphics powerhouse and Rare failed Nintendo a couple of times. MS needs to merge the talents of Rare and another blockbuster development team into one stable, generating the perfect balance that Rare as a developer needs while not sniffling its creativity.

Nercis
Nercis

@mikekabal Think about what made ​​Rare successful, Donkey Kong Country. a Nintendo title. The fact that Nintendo would have sold Rare is just bullcrap. It was the Stamper brothers who sold 51% of the company to Microsoft. Rare has been close to bankruptcy twice since they teamed up with MS. Is that what you call being in good hands?

MonsieurLynx
MonsieurLynx

Your pain it's my pain.... how I loved that old rareware times....

huntervaneg
huntervaneg

This article express just what I feel... The N64 was not the gold age for Nintendo but it was for me the gold age of Rare, great titles... My favourite and maybe the less popular: Jet Force Gemini... The last touch of magic of this studio was in Kameo, not excelent but nice for those who enjoys the creativity in adventures games... Yup, it is a shame that Rare is not around developing, so far MS adquisition has been terrible for them, for Rare and for us as, gamers... By the way, as the author of the article said: At least why MS has not approved the development of Killer Instinct 3, when the Xbox 360 is so suitable for this franchise?

Suyomizzle_
Suyomizzle_

Even the worst Rare games I've thought were mediocre, but still, I often forget about this studio and all they've done for the industry. At their best they were copycats, but the greatest copycats you can imagine. I would LOVE to see a sequel or remake of Jet Force Gemini...

stimpy01
stimpy01

I would like to see Rare work on Kameo 2.

Seiki_sands
Seiki_sands

@neccpeter Yes, a lot of Rare has left, but not all at once with the MS buyout. Some of the Goldeneye \ Perfect Dark employees left a little before the buyout and went on to make the Timesplitters series and the poorly received Haze on the PS3 and they're now at Crytek UK. The Stamper brothers, Rare's founders, left in 2007 after several of early 360 games under-performed on sales, though I've no idea whether the poor sales had anything to do with their choice to leave. There have been minor defections after most of the 360 games, but Rare was a large studio so there are still a lot of key people left, even though you'll hear constant exaggerations to the contrary. In spite of Mr. McShea's comments consider this however, Rare has made 5 games this generation that have scored 8.0+ at this site, I can't think of more than 1-2 developers that have been as productive at making good games as Rare has been this generation. Apparently 5 "Great" games (by his own site's definition) isn't enough for Mr. McShea (and a LOT of other haters). Imo, most of Rare's N64 and SNES work was a bit over-rated, they've always been a good developer, and that's what they still remain. @Maxor127 MS ruined Bungie? Really? Funding 5 AAA games in a row, leaving them bigger and richer than they found them is ruining them? If that's ruining, may we all be so fortunate. Nice to see your post getting a lot of thumbs up though, really illustrates some of the motivations for the comments on the article.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

MS's purchase of Rare reminds me on an article written about the history of Sega. In it, they claim that when MS was working on the OS for the Dreamcast, they kept asking questions about making a console. A few years later, we got the Xbox. i think Rare was bought just so MS could have a top tier developer in house, but not do a damned thing with them. It may suck for us, but MS has less competition from Nintendo and Sony when it comes to 3rd party games. I may not own a PS3, but a Rare game for the system would have kicked serious arse.

NEMO_O
NEMO_O

i want a new conker game,

RedWave247
RedWave247

I'm probably one of the only people who really wishes we could see a new Battletoads.

HaloPimp978
HaloPimp978

Well if they would have never left KI 3 would have been out a long time ago.

Garbage943
Garbage943

Lol, the second I saw a Rare post, I knew it had to be Mc Shea. A hotspot never goes by without him mentioning them!

fsocristao
fsocristao

Go back to where you belong Rare: NINTENDO!

nccpeter
nccpeter

Are the same people in charge of Rare? It seems they started to decline after the nintendo 64.

GodGundamNT1
GodGundamNT1

Destroyed, a shadow of its former self, Microsoft/Bill Gates/Steve Balmer are the DESTROYERS of videogame consoles and franchises. Rest it Peace and pour a little liquor for FASA, Ensemble, Studio Gigante, Artoon and pretty soon Square Enix, Konami, Namco Bandai and Capcom for making unholy alliances with Microsoft.

Takeno456
Takeno456

Rare should have never jumped ship in my opinion.

Llama345
Llama345

BAAHHAHA let rare walk away? yea right.

Dr_Notes
Dr_Notes

@plaintomato i was thinking that same thing. if only the name is the same, then that's why. I don't know who used to run it and who runs it now, but i'd be curious to find out.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Rare made some amazing games back in the day, to back we will never get to see those days again

jombazy
jombazy

I hope they will have a big reason for their absence.

Videowsgames
Videowsgames

wouldn't mind some rare love on the ps3....that would be cool

dRuGGeRnaUt
dRuGGeRnaUt

Why is everyone blaming MS for this? they released Perfect dark zero, kameo and banjo kazooie nuts and bolts. all commercial failures, and all(except) PDZ didnt get much buzz from critics. Personally i think PDZ was HORRIBLY over rated, and nostalgia alone accounted for most of the glowing reviews. Fact is, they made 3 unsuccessful games(i liked them all to some degree), and seems now to have lost the "confidence" from microsoft to invest in another, maybe they are waiting till they come up with a sure fire seller, maybe not, fact is, they haven't done anything "amazing" this gen.

plaintomato
plaintomato

Is Rare even Rare anymore? Or is it just an old name stocked with new faces? Maybe MS moved the talent...if the people at Rare are as great as Rare's heritage, they aren't likely to have just hung around contentedly doing nothing. They'd be off to greener pastures either under or outside MS's umbrella. I'm just guessing, I'm not going to go research the company figureheads to find out if they're still there or not.

gundaicut
gundaicut

well rare is hiring alot of ppl so who knows

DrKill09
DrKill09

Who cares? They haven't made a truely great game since Conker's Bad Fur Day on the N64. They're washed up, that's why Nintendo sold them.

Reltec
Reltec

I want Conker 360!!

EchelonDelta
EchelonDelta

'Would we see Rare build on the criminally underselling Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts with a sequel?' How bout make a proper Banjo-Kazooie game, the reason nuts and bolts was 'criminally underselling' is because it was bad.

Danthegamingman
Danthegamingman

It no longer matters the former talent in the best days of Rare. The Stamper brothers are gone, Tom Seaver who did the Conker games recently left. The guys that made Goldeneye and Perfect Dark left when MS purchased them. Rare has been ruined by Ken Loob, that's right I said it, you and your supervision between MS and Rare has ruined one of the best developers of all time. Hope your happy, jerk.

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

'"E3 2011: Reality Check - Where Is Rare?"' I'd like to know that too. If anyone knows how to get the most nextgen out of current gent console technology they're the forerunners of the like. Or atleast they used to be. Think Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong Country, and even the original Perfect Dark. Its sad what Microsoft has done to them. They should have been the first company to have dibs on the Kinect Technology. I hope Nintendo buys Rare back MS doesn't deserve them all they're using them for is Avatar coding and that's it really? They're capable of so much more although currentgen gamers may not be aware of that because Rare has been asleep thus far for so long. And no the revamped Perfect Dark that was released on Xboxlive arcade is not the same as the original Perfect Dark for N64 that took advantage of the expanded Memory chipset.

Sasuda
Sasuda

Answer unfortunately seems like Rare to Microsoft is SEGA to Nintendo. Except smaller.

mr_gibberish
mr_gibberish

Don't forget the best people from Rare left to form their own company, Free Radicals!! They made the Timesplitter series and then got bought over by Crytek. Now they are Crytek UK and were responsible for making the multi player of Crysis!!........ Timesplitter 4 where are you?!!!

augustoheadshot
augustoheadshot

Rare is one of my favorite developers too. All those superb games: Perfect Dark, Golden Eye, Conker, Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong...

RIPANTHONY8008
RIPANTHONY8008

would be nice if jet force gemini showed up on live but rare as a whole, i dont think they can return to what they once were