Microsoft Plans to Revive Rare-developed Franchises

By January 14, 2015
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British video game developer Rare has quite a reputation for being a quality video game developer, especially in the 1990s. While they’d been around since 1985, a partnership with Nintendo helped to yield some games that are now considered classics on two of their most prominent consoles: the Super Nintendo, and the Nintendo 64. Developing such acclaimed hits as Donkey Kong Country (and its sequels), Killer InstinctKen Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run,  GoldenEye 007Donkey Kong 64Banjo-Kazzoie, and Perfect Dark, the developer headed into the sixth console generation with quite a reputation. It was at that point that Rare broke off from Nintendo and was purchased by Microsoft, which had entered the video game console market in 2001 by releasing the original Xbox. While Rare developed a direct sequel to Perfect Dark on the Xbox 360 in 2005, they’ve largely stayed away from their defining franchises in the intervening decade.

They couldn’t return to Donkey Kong, since that was a property owned by Nintendo, and they had severed their ties with the House of Mario when they transitioned to being a Microsoft developer. Recent years have seen their studio focused instead on making games designed for the Kinect sensor peripheral on both Xbox 360 and now on Xbox One, but those games have largely been released to somewhat apathetic reactions. That may be changing, though. In a recent appearance on the Inner Circle podcast (via GameSpot), Microsoft Studios creative director Ken Lobb stated that Microsoft has plans to resurrect classic Rare franchises in the future. He said,

Will there ever be another Banjo, Viva, Blast Corps, Battletoads? Yeah, someday. We know there’s value. We have a lot of passion internally for each of the games. And we have surprises in store in the near and long future.

Part of the reasoning for this supposition, he said, is that Microsoft continually updates the trademarks on these properties so that they don’t lapse. Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark seem to be two obvious choices for revival on a new gen system like the Xbox One, since the system and its publisher don’t really have a lighthearted adventure title in their library like both chief rival Sony and Nintendo have, with Sony recently releasing LittleBigPlanet 3 on the PlayStation 4, while Nintendo has several properties like Super Mario, Donkey Kong, and Pikmin to fill that void. Perfect Dark is also an obvious candidate given gamers’ penchants for first-person shooters, which Microsoft likely dominates already with the presence of Halo. Still, Lobb was quick to point out to fans that they shouldn’t get excited about classic Rare franchises coming to Xbox One quickly.

Understand that what it’s really about is we want to build this suite of [Intellectual Property] 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. 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.

Hopefully, some of Microsoft’s thinking will turn into action, and maybe we’ll be able to play a new Banjo or Battletoads game on an Xbox One. For more on this as it develops, keep it locked on GeekNation!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.
  • Thomas Kelly

    yes, make a new Battletoads, that would be the best thing ever, A new Banjo-Kazooie would also make my year 😉