With Killer Instinct returning at E3, hopes were dashed when Rare stayed hidden.
After a hiatus of almost 20 years, Killer Instinct 3 was announced at E3 for the Xbox One as a day one digital exclusive. The once incredibly popular fighting game hasn’t seen the bright lights of a games console since its last outing on Nintendo’s N64 as Killer Instinct Gold in 1996. But now it’s back, and so it seemed was blast from the past, Rare Ltd.
After several years hidden away, Rare, the once admired poster boys of gaming development, had surely, finally been let loose by Microsoft and given the opportunity to test themselves on something other than a Kinect game. Hadn’t they?
Instead, Californian based Double Helix Games will be developing the new Killer Instinct. Their CV includes Silent Hill Homecoming and the terrible Battleship game based on the film, but in their distant past part of their studio was responsible for classics such as Earthworm Jim and MDK, so it could be worse. One of their producers told Eurogamer that only a few of Killer Instinct’s original developers were still at Rare but that they still sent builds over. “We get their feedback, and we factor that in to how we approach the game.”
Killer Instinct aside, if it wasn’t apparent before, now it’s almost crystal clear. Rare are little more than a shadow of their former selves if Microsoft don’t even trust them to develop a game they originally created. They’re making Kinect Sports Revival. Great.
In their prime, Rare were considered to be the best gaming developers not just in the UK but across the world. Gamers everywhere knew they could rely on Rare to release spectacular games.
They were Nintendo’s darlings and the birthplace of some of the greatest characters to ever invade our consoles. Many gamers grew up idolising and holding a soft spot in their hearts for the likes of Banjo and Kazooie and Conker. Hell, you can’t mention Rare without talking about them introducing the first person shooter genre to consoles, with gems such as GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. Yes, THAT Rare.
Their reputation was such that Microsoft shelled out an astounding $375 million in 2002 just to own the company and get them as their first party developers. And who could blame them? Rare at that time, under the guiding influence of the Stamper brothers, were inspirational in creating and developing brilliant games such as Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox Adventures and my personal favourite, Diddy Kong Racing.
They were once the best in the industry but now their standing has tumbled to an all time low. Since their big purchase by Microsoft to work on the Xbox, they seem to have lost their way, like the proverbial football signing who struggles to find the net.
While the likes of Viva Piñata and Kameo: Elements of Power released to fairly positive reviews, behind the scenes something was obviously wrong. The news that original founders Chris and Tim Stamper were leaving to “pursue other opportunities” was a crushing blow.
Suddenly even more key figures within the company were leaving for pastures new. The gamers who had idolised Rare in those glory years were becoming disillusioned and lost interest in their new projects. As the 360 has grown old, it seems Microsoft didn’t really know what to do with them and instead ushered them away to focus entirely on the development of Kinect games.
Rare’s fall from grace has become so greatly noted in the gaming industry that Eurogamer’s Simon Parkin wrote an article called ‘Who Killed Rare?’ in which he investigated the reasons for this prestigious development company’s disappearance. One of the key figures he interviewed in the article was Martin Hollis, a former employee at Rare, whose first project was working on the original Killer Instinct. He declared that “Microsoft and Rare was a bad marriage from the beginning. The groom was rich. The bride was beautiful. But they wanted to make different games and they wanted to make them in different ways.”
Microsoft’s announcement at E3 of the revival of the Killer Instinct franchise should have been a major positive and talking point about the future of Rare. Instead the news looks to have almost killed any hope of Rare’s return to the frontline of gaming development and left gamers and fans like me to mourn the tragic loss of this once great company.
It’s still extremely early days in the life of the Xbox One and hopefully in the coming years Rare will be given another crack at creating something other than Kinect titles. Until then, we can only speculate with a shrug of the shoulders about Rare’s much awaited return.
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