Microsoft and RARE: Culture Clash?

I’ve made no secret of my love of RARE. Well…old RARE that is.

RARE made some of my favourite games ever, including the Banjo-Kazooie series, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Diddy Kong Racing, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and the Donkey Kong Country series. These games were a huge part of not only my childhood, but I’m sure the childhoods of many others. Under Nintendo, they seemed to do no wrong, churning out hit after hit, all filled with whimsy, wonder and brimming at the seams with personality. RARE and Nintendo were one of the great gaming partnerships. Then one day that all changed.

Microsoft came along and bought out the entirety of RARE a fair few years back. It was a shock to many passionate Nintendo and RARE fans, but we were just happy that they’d still be able to make games. But would it still be the same RARE that we knew and loved? Only time would tell and we soon learned that this wasn’t to be the case. Sure their first game under the Microsoft banner “Grabbed by the Ghoulies” looked like a RARE game, but it didn’t have that same charm all their previous games had. Something had changed in the shift from Nintendo and Microsoft and we all certainly noticed.

Recently, Phil Tossell, co-founder of Nyamyam Studios, a company made up of former RARE staffers currently working on a game for Wii U, PC/Mac and mobile devices shed some light on the environment and his experience working with Microsoft. L0 and behold, his story seems to verify a lot of gamers thoughts about the matter.

“Rare was also a close knit family and so it was something of a shock to suddenly become part of such a huge organisation as Microsoft. There was a severe culture clash which perhaps didn’t become apparent at first as Microsoft mostly allowed us to continue as we had always done. However as time passed and there were staff changes at MGS, together with Tim and Chris (Stamper) leaving, the culture changed and it began to feel more Microsoft and less Rare. While Rare continues to put out high quality games, for me it lost some of the spark that had made the company special.”

For myself and other fans out there, it just makes it all the more worse to hear the truth from someone present to see that environment change. While Microsoft probably had good intentions to keep that RARE spirit going when they grabbed them, the corporate mentality and desire to create games that would sell probably led to that drastic shift in culture. As mentioned before, the people who made RARE what it was also left (going on to their own studios and making some great games). All these drastic changes have morphed the studio into what it is today.

To be fair, the games RARE have made under the Xbox banner (with the exception of Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts) do still maintain a high quality and have been quite enjoyable, but like I said before, that RARE spark has gone. Did Microsoft think that by buying them up, that they would be able to steal that Nintendo quality too? If reports are to go by and this story from former staffer Chris Seavor, Microsoft had genuinely thought that acquiring RARE had netted them Donkey Kong too!

While I’d love to see RARE go back to what made them the studio we know and love, we’re not going to see it. They’re so far gone from what they were and the amount of people that have left to go on new ventures means we’ll never get that studio back to what they were. But hey at least we have the new Killer Instinct to look forward to…right?


Source: Nintendo Enthusiast – Interview with Phil Tossell of Nyamyam Studios/Examiner


  1. “To be fair, the games RARE have made under the Xbox banner (with the exception of Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts) do still maintain a high quality and have been quite enjoyable”

    That’s crazy talk. You’re crazy. Get off the damn road. I really enjoyed BK: Nuts & Bolts! It was an adventurous game that was different to anything I’d played before or since. I reckon it would have been really disappointing if it was just a copy of the formula laid out by the previous 2 games.

    1. My reasoning for hating Nuts and Bolts has always been the same. It’s just not a BK game. The mechanics are sound and work well, but putting the Banjo name to it was a terrible idea.

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