Rare (company)

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Rare Ltd. (formerly known as Rareware) is a British video game company that is currently a subsidiary of Microsoft. It is based in Twycross, Leicestershire. Founded in 1985 as Ultimate Play the Game, Rare has produced numerous critically and commercially successful titles such as the Banjo-Kazooie series, Battletoads, Star Fox Adventures, and the highly vulgar title Conker's Bad Fur Day. Microsoft bought the company from competitor Nintendo in 2002, for a sum of US$375 million (equivalent to about US$506.6 million in 2017).[1]

History

Early years

Rare was founded as Ultimate Play the Game by Chris and Tim Stamper. The first game the Stamper Brothers produced was Jetpac, a title also ported to the 8 bit home computer ZX Spectrum.[2]

Nintendo partnership

Nintendo showed interest in Rare after Rare effectively reverse engineered their Famicom (NES in the West) console and allowed Rare to produce titles for the console and Nintendo gave Rare an extensive budget to do so. Rare developed the popular and infamous game Battletoads, as well as a number of movie and game show based games.

After developing a large number of NES titles, Rare bought Silicon Graphics and developed rendered 3D graphics that would be compatible with Nintnedo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Due to this, Nintendo bought a stake in the company and Rare became a second party developer for Nintendo.

Nintendo let Rare choose from its extensive list of characters to develop a SNES title, and the Stamper Brothers chose to revive the dormant Donkey Kong series. The resultant game, Donkey Kong Country, was a critical and commercial success when initially released in 1994. Rare cooperated with Midway to create a Killer Instinct arcade game, and this was ported over to the SNES. Aside from this and the Battletoads titles, the Donkey Kong Country series was the main product produced for the SNES. In 1995, Rare released Donkey Kong Country 2 which expanded upon the formula of the first game and was also a success. Donkey Kong Country 3 was released in 1996 and sold relatively well despite it being released at the end of the SNES' lifespan and it came out after the Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 came out in the US. Another Donkey Kong Country game would not come out again until Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii, produced by Retro Studios rather than Rare.

Rare experienced its most success developing for Nintendo's Nintendo 64 console. With few developers producing games for the console due in part to it utilizing archaic cartridge technology, rather than the CDs that were cheaper to make and offered much more storage and were used by competitors Sony and Sega, Rare was one of the few developers making games for the Nintendo console. The first, Blast Corps, was a commercial and critical success.

GoldenEye 007, despite an underwhelming initial showing, was a system-seller, and considered one of the greatest games of all time. It is based on the James Bond film GoldenEye, and meant to be a tie-in even though the game was actually released two years after the movie. Starting out in development as an on-rails shooter similar to Sega's Virtua Cop, GoldenEye 007 later became a first person shooter. It is credited with being the foundation of the console first person shooter. One of the holdovers from its on-rails origin, being required to reload the gun, became a core first person shooter game mechanic. By utilizing the four controller ports of the N64, Rare was able to provide a multiplayer experience not otherwise available on a video game console at that time through a multiplayer death match mode that was added in at the end of development by the development team without authorization from Nintendo or the higher-ups at Rare. A spiritual successor, Perfect Dark, was released in 2000 as Nintendo surrendered the James Bond game license to Electronic Arts.

Diddy Kong Racing, released in 1997, is a cart racer similar to Mario Kart but with an adventure mode, an anomaly for the genre. This was released as Rare's Project Dream, originally a SNES RPG, became the 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie. Banjo was released in 1998 to critical and commercial acclaim, and is credited with improving upon the Super Mario 64 formula with its focus on collecting, platforming, and exploration. A sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was released in 2000 to similar success. Tooie expanded upon the formula of its predecessor and added enhancements such as more playable characters, expanded worlds, and a multiplayer mode.

The last Nintendo 64 game Rare released was Conker's Bad Fur Day which is controversial for its highly vulgar nature, depicting drunkenness, cartoon violence and blood, and humor considered inappropriate for minors (including intense profanity, with only the most obscene words censored). The game also serves as a parody of the 3D platforming genre, satirizing many games including those made by Nintendo and Rare. While considered a critical darling due to the high esteem critics held it in, it was a commercial failure. This is attributed to Nintendo refusing to promote the game due to its content. The game did not appear in its Nintendo Power periodical nor in other venues. Rare self-published the game in North America and Europe, while THQ published the game in Australia as Nintendo refused to publish the title. Due to this, the game has become a "cult classic" and the game consistently sells for high amounts of money on eBay due to the lackluster sales it had. Conker appears in the Rare Replay compilation on Xbox One in its original state.

Citing the cost of game development rising, Rare requested that Nintendo purchase the remaining 51 percent of shares in the company. Nintendo refused, leading Rare to search for another buyer. Rare produced one last game for Nintendo, Star Fox Adventures, based on Nintendo's Star Fox IP. Originally called Dinosaur Planet, Rare made the game into a Star Fox game per the request of key Nintendo developer Shigeru Miyamoto. Star Fox Adventures as met with lackluster critical reception and sales. This title was the end of the Nintendo-Rare partnership.

Microsoft buyout

Activision and Microsoft were two companies Rare considered as buyers after Nintendo refused to take full ownership of the company, but Microsoft ultimately bought Rare for $375 million once Activision decided not to purchase Rare. Microsoft obtained the 49% of shares owned by Nintendo as well as the 51% of shares owned by the Stamper Brothers.[3]

Due to the nature of the buyout, Rare retained their original intellectual properties such as Banjo and Conker, while Nintendo retained work by Rare done with their intellectual property such as Donkey Kong and Star Fox. A senior executive at Microsoft mistakenly assumed that by buying Rare, Microsoft was acquiring the Donkey Kong franchise, though this franchise was created in 1981 by Nintendo and Rare simply developed games for Nintendo using the character.

Microsoft era

After Microsoft bought Rare, Rare first released Grabbed by the Ghoulies for the original Xbox, an arcade style beat-em-up, to mixed critical reception and poor commercial reception. The other game Rare developed for the original Xbox was Conker: Live and Reloaded, a remake of the highly vulgar Conker's Bad Fur Day that was met with positive critical reception, though deemed inferior to the original due to censorship on the part of Microsoft, though the added multiplayer portion was received well. The title sold poorly, and Rare produced no more original Xbox titles.

Due to Microsoft not having a handheld video game console to compete with Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, Microsoft let Rare produce titles for the Nintendo handheld. Two Banjo-Kazooie titles as well as enhanced remakes of the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy were produced.

Rare was given a large responsibility for the launch of the Xbox 360, producing Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo for the system, though they both received lukewarm critical reception and sold poorly and the former was overshadowed by Call of Duty 2.

Viva Pinata and its sequel Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise were the most successful games Rare produced during their tenure with Microsoft. These titles featured a garden simulator, a departure from other games produced by the company. The games were met with above average critical reception and modest sales.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts n' Bolts was released in 2008, originally intended as a spin-off in the franchise. After undergoing several changes in development, the game became one where the player has to build various vehicles to complete a number of challenges. The game was met with above average critical reception and sales of around one million units. However, many fans of the first two console games in the franchise expressed their dissatisfaction with the game due to its deviation from the formula of the first two games.

The company was restructured by Microsoft, and became the lead in-house developer for the Kinect add-on. Rare released Kinect Sports, an title where the player interacts with the television simulating a number of sports. This game is a response to Nintendo's Wii Sports and it became Rare's best selling game up to that point during its tenure with Microsoft.[4] Kinect Sports: Season Two was released for the Xbox 360, and was followed up by Kinect Sports Rivals on Xbox One.

After the Kinect failed to achieve what Microsoft sought from the gadget, Rare released the Rare Replay compilation featuring thirty games from Rare's back catalog, from Jetpac to Nuts n' Bolts, ignoring the Kinect titles released by Rare. The compilation was released for the price of $30, and also served as a test for Microsoft's Xbox 360 emulation which gives the Xbox One backwards compatibility with select Xbox 360 titles. This is because the Xbox 360 titles included in the compilation including the enhanced remakes of Nintendo 64 games are running on said emulator.

Rare is currently working on Sea of Thieves, which is expected to be released in 2018. It is a pirate themed online adventure title.

List of games

The following is a list of titles developed by Rare.

Arcade

Nintendo Entertainment System

Sega Master System

  • Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

Game Boy

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Sega Genesis/Mega Drive

Nintendo 64

Game Boy Color

Game Boy Advance

GameCube

Nintendo DS

Xbox

Xbox 360

Xbox One

References

  1. GameCubicle
  2. Pronounced "zed-x spectrum"
  3. Microsoft
  4. GameSpot

External links