What you are about to read could easily become the epilogue for one of the most thrilling scandals ever surfaced around one single game. Rare's GoldenEye 007 has earned public notoriety more than ten years after its original launch without needing the help of gory graphics, politically incorrect subplots or meaningless parent-teacher association demands regarding its contents. It wasn't even necessary to release the game itself, since its cancellation on Xbox Live Arcade was the cause of all the trouble that came afterwards. It led to an ever increasing range of rumours, different theories, backstage statements and an unexpected media coverage made possible, apparently, by the contributions of one man hidden in the shadows.Source.
Some weeks ago, news website Videogamer revisited the GoldenEye enigma after talking with Rare's senior engineer Nick Burton at the Game Developers Conference. A downloadable title cancelled nearly one year before is hardly a relevant story at any games event, but as it became evident three hundred updates ago, the guys from Videogamer were more than willing to ask about any possible Rare topic while they had the chance to do so. "The ball's not in anybody at Rare's court really," Burton said, "it's squarely in the license holders' courts. It's a shame. It's kind of locked in this no man's land. There's nothing on Live Arcade, there's nothing on Wii." He was referring to the secret agreement between Nintendo and Microsoft that failed back in 2006. Microsoft would agree to let Nintendo launch the game on Wii's Virtual Console if Nintendo agreed to let Microsoft launch it on Xbox Live Arcade. Nintendo didn't like the plan.
During this summer's Xbox Holiday Showcase in New York, product manager Michael Johnson got camera shy when we asked our own questions about GoldenEye. However, other people around the same party were more eager to share their thoughts. "Let me tell you what happened," said a Microsoft representative who chose to remain unidentified. What he was about to describe was pretty much the same story we all know. Rare started working on GoldenEye XBLA before anybody knew if it was legally possible to release the game; they completed it; Activision, the current holders of the James Bond licence, greenlighted it; and then Nintendo, who share the rights of the original game with Microsoft, refused to give their approval for a joint launch on Wii and Xbox 360. "But the game is finished and it could be released if the situation changes in the future," our source added. In other words, Microsoft is still willing to release GoldenEye even if it takes a decade for Nintendo to eat up their ego.
Nick Burton didn't sound so optimistic. "It's incredibly hard to solve because there's so many licence holders involved," he told Videogamer, "it's just what happens legally sometimes. Not necessarily with games, but you see it with music and films. Things get locked in this legal limbo. Even most of the parties involved, probably all the parties involved want to solve it." That wouldn't be the case of GoldenEye, since Nintendo deliberately banned the release even when they got the opportunity to launch the game themselves.
This is a version of the story that even the third party involved backs up. "It's not up to us, we want to see that game out there," another source from Activision told us, "you've seen it, it looks amazing and we would love to play it. It was Nintendo's fault." In fact, the people at Activision should be the first in line fighting for GoldenEye. "You know, they have nothing to lose. It's only good for them to get it released," our Microsoft contact said, "they would make a lot of money they are not making the way things are right now."
In the meanwhile, Nintendo keeps quiet. Ever since the GoldenEye issue heated up back in January, no website or printed magazine on a worldwide basis has been able to get a single statement from them. "It's probably going to go down in the annals of gaming history as one of the big mysteries," Nick Burton concluded.
But who started it all? According to Microsoft, it was only one person, a former Rare employee who decided to break his NDA. "Somebody stole a build of the game and then contacted a UK magazine. It was just one person and we know who he is. I don't know his name, but I guess that right now they are discussing what sort of legal action they are going to take against him." What this person did may have been a mistake in legal terms, but it was rather understandable given the situation. If it wasn't for him, we would have never known what a great game Rare re-imagined and what wonderful experience we are missing due to one company's stubbornness. This was one of those scarce occasions where everybody would have won, starting by the users themselves. It was a rather sad way of ending things that we all deserved to learn about.
We contacted this elusive developer long ago and got an exclusive screenshot which shows GoldenEye's Dam level as it was and as it could have been, had the game been released. However, both views come from the XBLA remake, since one of its many features allowed users to play the game without HD graphics looking as they did on N64. Take it as the last present from someone who, among other things, made many of our previous GoldenEye special articles possible.
Now that Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are on its way to the Xbox Live Arcade, Microsoft seems to have moved on and more of Rare's old NES, SNES and N64 games could see the light of day again. At least, if the 2002 buyout agreement between Nintendo, Microsoft and Rare took place the way we all always assumed it did. "I don't know what IPs are shared between Nintendo and Microsoft, but there could be more," our source said. Although it seems highly unlikely, the sole possibility of Nintendo banning future re-releases of Killer Instinct or Blast Corps, both licences currently hold by Microsoft but originally published by the Japanese, sounds scary enough.
Gee, thanks Nintendo. Way to swing and miss.
Grow up, please.