Microsoft: Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and More Will Return Eventually
"We have surprises in store in the near and long future," Ken Lobb says.
Though Microsoft has shown hesitance in investing in classic Rare franchises such as Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Blast Corps, Viva Pinata, and Battletoads recently, that doesn't mean the company is abandoning them altogether. In fact, Microsoft Studios creative director Ken Lobb says each of the franchises will return someday, when the time and circumstances are right.
"Will there ever be another Banjo, Viva, Blast Corps, Battletoads? Yeah, someday. And I think the reason you see things like [the Battletoads trademark] revived, is because we know there's value," Lobb said on the latest Inner Circle podcast.
"So we renewed the trademark. Does that mean it's coming this year? No. Does that mean it'll never come? Absolutely not. We have a lot of passion internally for each of the games. And we have surprises in store in the near and long future."
Lobb summed up Microsoft's strategy around revisiting older IP by saying those Rare franchises and others, like Perfect Dark, give the company the ability to surprise and delight gamers with titles they may not have expected.
"Understand that what it's really about is we want to build this suite of IP that we can add to a list of, 'Let's build some new things, let's build some recent sequels, and let's do some crazy stuff like dig back into our portfolio of IP and build some games that people love,'" he explained.
"I think the best message to give to your listeners is we love the old IP as much as you do--please be patient because we can only build so much at a time."
Lobb isn't the only key creative person at Microsoft's Xbox division making decisions about what franchises are revived. He added that Head of Xbox Phil Spencer is a great leader and decision-maker because he not only looks at the business side of the coin, but also the creative.
"This is one of the things that I love about [Phil Spencer]: He understands the value of IP," Lobb said. "Not just in terms of let's go make a new one every year. But in terms of, 'let's go think about the portfolio and what makes the most sense at the right time.'"
While there has been much speculation about what UK studio Rare might be working on next, Lobb revealed that it's not a new Perfect Dark game. "Today, no one is working on a new Perfect Dark," he said, while also pointing out that Perfect Dark is "in the discussion a lot" regarding which franchises Microsoft should bring back for the new generation.
Lobb also teased that a new Perfect Dark could, if it ever does get made, be a more story-driven game that dives into who Joanna Dark is. He also suggested that it might not even be a shooter, as Microsoft already has the shooter space covered well with the Halo and Gears of War franchises.
"In a world where you have Halo and you have Gears, having another Perfect Dark Zero-style game maybe makes a little bit less sense than something that's a little more story-driven around Joanna," Lobb said. "Whether that's third-person with stealth, et cetera, et cetera ... we like the IP."
Perfect Dark Zero was set in the year 2020, which Lobb teased could make for a fitting time to see the series return to life. "Maybe we'll see another Joanna Dark game with Joanna by 2020. That would be an interesting year to bring her back," he said.
Gamers may not need to wait much longer to find out what Rare is working on next, as the developer says it has "huge" plans for 2015, a sentiment Lobb echoed. "It's a nice, big year for Rare and I'm excited as well," he said.