Rare: Goodbye Nintendo, Hello Microsoft [09/24/02]

Rare, the development house that developed such games as Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and their first GameCube title Star Fox Adventures, has been rumored to be departing from their Nintendo exclusivity for some time. Rare had been a second party developer for Nintendo for some time, and considering that Nintendo owned 49% of Rare's stock, that's not much of a surprise. Persistent rumors about Rare's departure cropped up earlier this year, especially after an infamous Christmas Card that showed a GameCube, Playstation 2 and Xbox wrapped as gifts under a tree. Since then, the rumor mill has been off-again, on-again.

At times, Rare was rumored to be going third party and people were stating that Rare had development boxes for both the PS2 and Xbox. Then, there were the rumors that Microsoft was buying Rare and then Activision was going to buy Rare. Nobody could confirm anything and if you emailed either Nintendo or Rare, neither would state anything outside of a polite "we aren't telling you anything" response. In fact, Rare never directly denied any of the rumors.

As reported at IGN, it seemed that the rumors might have been actually true. Nintendo, after reviewing the lack of financial return from Rare in the past two years, had decided not to buy out the rest of the company's shares and make them first party, but instead wanted to sell their own shares. Both Activision and Microsoft were interested, but Microsoft apparently made the best offer at an undisclosed price somewhere between 250 million and 350 million (source: Gamesindustry.biz). This, of course, was undisclosed at the time of the article as it seemed the three companies were haggling over what intellectual property was going to go with Rare.

9/20/02 - Gamespot reported that Nintendo was to sell off Rare, but that they would keep the rights to Donky Kong, Diddy Kong and Star Fox. They also cited CNN Money that the sale of Rare would include the rights to Perfect Dark, Conker, and Banjo-Kazooie.

9/23/02 - Another report is posted, almost confirming that Microsoft has made the purchase, except that Microsoft refused to confirm as it was believed they would make the announcement at their X02 event in Seville, Spain on the 24th.

9/24/02 - Microsoft puts all rumors to an end by officially announcing that they have bought Rare. The price: $375 million. What they get: Along with Rare comes their new title Kameo, which was at point in development for the GameCube, and promises of new titles in the Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark series. It was stated that Rare planned to develop 5 titles in the next two years, so they seem to be warming up to their new home.

Some quotes from the recent announcement:

Chris Stamper, chairman of Rare: "Our mission at Rare has always been to make the industry's best games for the widest possible audience. Teaming with Microsoft gives us the best opportunity to accomplish this goal."

Ed Fries, vice president of Xbox Game Content: "The last time I was this excited was the first time I picked up a controller and played a game from Rare."

Tim Stamper, Rare co-founder: "We've always insisted on pushing the envelope when it comes to creativity, and now we get the chance to create for Xbox."

Why would Nintendo drop a company that made so many exclusive games for them and has such a dedicated fanbase? As stated before, Rare hasn't been a large part of Nintendo's earnings as of late. Also, Nintendo has been focusing more on deals with third party developers, like Sega and Namco, to increase their game selection for their current consoles. Of course, there might be internal conflicts between the two companies, but neither Rare nor Nintendo would state as much.

What does this mean for Nintendo? Except for not having Rare around to develop games for them, not a lot. Some of the games Rare developed for Nintendo are legally property of Nintendo, meaning that you won't see any Donkey Kong or Star Fox on the Xbox. But, other titles that were popular during the N64 days will not see sequels on the GameCube, but on the Xbox.

What does this mean for Microsoft? Having Rare on their roster gives Microsoft a developer with both history and fanbase, which can increase sales of the Xbox for those who want to play Rare games no matter where they are. And since Rare is bringing some favorite videogame names with them, there's sure to be a few people to bite the bullet and pick up and Xbox.

The backlash had already begun from disgruntled Rare/Nintendo fans, as witnessed by the reaction of this Perfect Dark Zero fansite. Fortunately, those with calmer heads will have to find their Rare fix on the Xbox. After such a long, rumor-filled road, it's finally nice to have everything resolved.

- - Kinderfeld

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