Sunday, October 28, 2012

If Nintendo bought Rare...

by Steve

Rareware logo

There is a rumor going around that Nintendo is interested in buying Rare back from Microsoft. While it is merely a rumor, I thought it would be interesting to speculate about what could happen if the Big N were to buy their former second-party developer back from Microsoft.

GoldenEye 007 - The game that could sell millions of consoles

Box art for Nintendo 64 game GoldenEye 007

Everyone loves the N64 version of GoldenEye, and a few years ago, Rare revisited their old best-seller and created an enhanced HD version of the game. As the story goes, Nintendo, Microsoft, Rare, and Activision, the current holders of the Bond license, had reached a joint agreement which would have allowed the game to be released on both the Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii's Virtual Console. Unfortunately, just as the game was nearing release, Nintendo backed out and pretty much sabotaged the project, ensuring that no one would get to play it.

Screenshot of GoldenEye for Xbox Live Arcade
A remarkable improvement over the original.

While neither Nintendo nor Microsoft are willing to publicly comment on why the project stalled, there are a few possibilities. One, Nintendo simply didn't like the idea of a game they published appearing on a rival's console. Two, Nintendo and Microsoft couldn't agree on how the profits were to be divided. Three, Nintendo was afraid the Xbox 360 version would have been superior to the Wii version in terms of graphics and online capabilities, causing many gamers to ditch the Wii entirely. Or four, some/all of the above. At the end of the day, all that really matters is that if Microsoft hadn't purchased Rare, Nintendo would have been able to re-release an HD version of the legendary shooter.

Screenshot of HD version of GoldenEye for Xbox Live Arcade
The Wii version wouldn't have looked nearly as good. And the online multiplayer would have been inferior as well.

While I could not find a definitive answer as to who owns the actual game code, MundoRare quotes an anonymous Rare staff member as saying Nintendo and Microsoft currently share the rights to it. Regardless of who owns the code now, if Nintendo were to buy Rare back from Microsoft, that would definitely raise the odds of the remastered game finally being released. Since Activision was more than willing to put their stamp of approval on the project, getting the actual Bond license would not be an issue.

The announcement of an enhanced version of GoldenEye on the Wii U would sell millions of people on the system, winning back many of the so-called "hardcore" gamers that the company lost during the lifespan of their last console. If you don't think GoldenEye would sell all that great, get this: GoldenEye sold 8 million copies worldwide and was the best-selling N64 game in the United States. That's right, Americans bought more copies of Bond's first N64 outing than Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and even Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Considering how many people were willing to go out and buy a 3DS to play an enhanced version of Zelda, just imagine how many would plop down cash for a Wii U to put on Bond's tuxedo and take down Alec Trevelyan again. So far, I'm loving the idea of Nintendo buying Rare.

Perfect Dark - A "real first-person shooter," and a "hardcore" title

Box art for Nintendo 64 version of Perfect Dark

Nintendo hasn't really been a fan of the FPS genre, and they really went out of their way to make sure the Metroid Prime games didn't get labeled as such. Geist did feature first-person shooting, but the gameplay was a mishmash of different concepts and doesn't really fit the genre. Perfect Dark, on the other hand, was a pure FPS, but it was anything but ordinary. Using a modified version of the celebrated GoldenEye engine, Perfect Dark delivered more fast-paced run and gun action in the style of its predecessor, but with a lot more features and a much darker tone. Rightly or wrongly, the term "hardcore" generally means "bloody," and Perfect Dark fits the bill more than just about anything else the big N's ever published. While Perfect Dark Zero may have tarnished the brand in the eyes of some gamers, the franchise still has potential. And yet, it seems Microsoft has no interest in telling more stories about secret agent Joanna Dark.

Screenshot of Perfect Dark for Xbox Live Arcade
I'd love to see the HD version of Perfect Dark on the Wii U eShop.

If Nintendo bought Rare, they could give their old developer the chance to create a new entry and restore Perfect Dark to its former glory, laying the foundation for an ongoing hardcore franchise. Nintendo's ownership of Rare would also get the old PD titles off of Xbox Live and onto the Wii U eShop. The HD version of Perfect Dark would be a must have Wii U title, and while some players have nothing but hate for Perfect Dark Zero, I wouldn't mind owning it myself. I'm really loving the idea of Nintendo buying Rare.

Killer Instinct - The only "true fighting games" ever published by Nintendo

Logo for Rare video game Killer Instinct

Nintendo refers to the Smash Bros. titles as "fighting games," but they really don't fit the mold. Sure, you have a bunch of characters beating the living daylights out of each other, but the action is more Looney Tunes than Street Fighter. The Killer Instinct series was pretty much a cross between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, so they were definitely "true fighting games," and "hardcore" as well.

Orchid fighting Riptor in Killer Instinct arcade game
The graphics and animation were impressive at the time.

I have many fond memories of playing Killer Instinct for hours on end, particularly the SNES version, and judging from all the activity in forums and discussion boards, I'm not the only one who wishes the series would reappear in one form or another. While Nintendo's ownership of Rare would make Killer Instinct 3 a possibility, creating a fighting game from the ground up is very expensive and risky, especially with juggernauts like Super Street Fighter IV to contend with.

Chief Thunder fighting Fulgore in Killer Instinct arcade game
Thanks to some clever programming, a few levels in the arcade version appeared to be 3D.

The best course of action would be to "test the waters" for interest in the series, and the cheapest way to do that would be to re-release the old games on the Virtual Console. While they could re-release the Super Nintendo version of Killer Instinct and the N64's Killer Instinct Gold, that's not really what I have in mind.

Jago and Eyedol in Killer Instinct SNES
The SNES version was pretty good, but it pales in comparison to the arcade.

Nintendo promised we would get perfect ports of the arcade games on the N64, but that never happened. Instead, we got two home versions that pale in comparison to the source material in every way. Sure the gameplay is essentially the same, the music is recognizable, and the characters and locales bear a pretty good resemblance to their cabinet counterparts, but everything is scaled down...way down. The animation is choppy, the audio is's like comparing the Wii version of a game to the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions. You get the same basic experience, but it lacks the wow factor. Finally getting exact translations of the 2 Killer Instinct arcade games would be awesome for gamers, and a low-risk move for Nintendo.

No scaled-down versions. I want the real deal.

Repackaging old material is a great business practice. Small investment, maximum return. And with the advent of digital distribution, re-releases have never been more profitable, as manufacturing costs have been completely removed from the equation. Nintendo would likely make money in the process, even if very few people bought the games. Judging from the outcry that broke out in response to the "Microsoft rejected Killer Instinct 3" articles a while back, I'm pretty sure the arcade ports would do alright.

Killer Instinct 2 arcade flyer
Killer Instinct 2 came to the N64 as Killer Instinct Gold, and it wasn't a direct conversion.

So what would be the worst case scenario if Nintendo allowed Rare to port the Killer Instinct arcade games to the Wii U and not enough people bought them to justify the making of Killer Instinct 3? Well, gamers would finally have arcade-perfect ports of two classic fighting games, and the Big N might win back some of the coveted hardcore demographic while losing a few million dollars. At the end of the day, they'd have more customers which would pay off in the long run, and they'd earn the right to say "we told you so" to everyone who ever nagged them to green light a third game. Not a bad deal from my point of view. I'm still loving the idea of Nintendo buying Rare. Next IP, please...

Banjo-Kazooie - 3D platforming at its finest

Screenshot of Nintendo 64 game Banjo-Kazooie
The Wii U could use some more 3D platformers.

Super Mario 64 is widely regarded as the definitive N64 platformer, but it's not quite a universal opinion. Depending on who you ask, the Banjo games are either on-par with the plumber's first 3D outing, or slightly better. I'd prefer to steer clear of that debate as it's not really relevant. All you need to know is, when it comes to platforming, Banjo and his feathered friend can hold their own. If Nintendo were to buy Rare, they could re-release all of the previous games on the Wii U eShop, and it would open the door for Banjo-Threeie, a true sequel that would ditch the odd vehicle-centric gameplay of Nuts and Bolts and return the series to its platforming roots. Our speculative deal keeps getting better and better.

Diddy Kong Racing - Awesome and addictive

Title screen of Diddy Kong Racing for Nintendo 64
No problems with Rare characters being in the game if Nintendo owned Rare.

This might come as a surprise to some, but Diddy Kong Racing was originally called RC Pro-Am 64 and there were no Nintendo characters in the game. Rare had developed the title with the intention that it would resurrect their classic racing series, and they would have wholly owned it. To their chagrin, Shigeru Miyamoto asked the second-party developer to throw Diddy Kong into the game so they could put his name on it. Rare eventually agreed, and Donkey Kong's sidekick was shoehorned into the game so it could have a more high-profile title in spite of the fact that Diddy was the only character in the game not owned by Rare.

Racing on water in Nintendo 64 game Diddy Kong Racing

I tried to find out who owns the rights to the actual game code to see if it were theoretically possible for Nintendo to re-release the game on their own, but unfortunately, the search results were almost entirely made up of forum threads filled with nothing but guesses as to who owns what. There could very well be legal issues.

Diddy Kong flying in Nintendo 64 game Diddy Kong Racing

I am aware that Nintendo, Rare, and Microsoft reached a deal to re-release the game on the DS in 2007, but seeing as how Microsoft didn't have a handheld gaming system of its own, the idea of making money off a title that wouldn't hurt any of their own departments must have been too good to pass up.

Diddy Kong driving in snow level in Nintendo 64 game Diddy Kong Racing

When it comes to the Wii and Wii U though, it's a different story, as the Virtual Console directly competes with Xbox Live. I don't think we'll see Diddy Kong Racing re-released on either platform anytime soon.

If Nintendo were to buy Rare, that would pretty much solve everything. The game could be re-released in its original form, no changes necessary. I'm sure it would do very well as a Virtual Console title.

Donkey Kong 64 - On the Virtual Console with Jetpac intact

Box art for Donkey Kong 64

Rare developed a lot of games for Nintendo, and due to their status as a second-party developer, a good deal of them are still owned by the Big N. Donkey Kong 64 is one such game, and it has yet to find its way to the Virtual Console. Gamers have come up with a number of theories to explain its absence, but they are all myths. There is one myth, however, that does have a little substance to it.

Donkey Kong 64 screenshot
Rare themselves are wondering why this game isn't on the Virtual Console.

The myth goes something like this: "Nintendo can't re-release Donkey Kong 64 because it contains Jetpac, a Rare IP." For those of you who don't know, Jetpac is an early Rare title in which the player guides a generic character called Jetman from planet to planet while contending with aliens. Rare included JetPac in Donkey Kong 64 as a minigame, and if Nintendo wanted to re-release Donkey Kong 64 on the Virtual Console, they would either have to take Jetpac out and replace it with something else, or they would need permission from Rare and their current owner Microsoft to leave it in the game. Since Microsoft is a competitor, it seems doubtful they would be willing to negotiate unless they got a percentage of the profits, something Nintendo doesn't generally go for. Rare themselves have suggested Nintendo remove Jetpac from the game, even going so far as to suggest possible replacements from Nintendo's own catalog of classic games. And yet, here we are, 6 years after the launch of the Wii, and Donkey Kong 64 is still nowhere in sight.

Screenshot of the video game Jetpac
If Nintendo owned Rare, this game would not be a problem.

Some gamers have speculated that Nintendo doesn't want to re-release Donkey Kong 64 unless it's in its original, unaltered form, and I can't completely rule that out. If the Big N were to buy Rare, that would solve the problem, paving the way for DK 64 to be re-released without any alterations to its content, leaving Jetpac fully intact. A minor victory for Nintendo, but still an upside to our hypothetical deal.


Of course, no Rare discussion would be complete without mentioning Battletoads. The tough-as-nails series has resulted in millions of ragequits and many, many broken controllers. Still, as brutally difficult as the games are, they are classics and people love 'em. If Nintendo bought Rare, they could re-release all of them on the Virtual Console, allowing older gamers to relive childhood memories while introducing a new generation of gamers to the hard-hitting toads. If sales were impressive enough, we might even get a new Battletoads game. It may be unlikely, but it would be theoretically possible.

Rare's underrated games would get a second chance

Box art for Nintendo 64 games Jet Force Gemini, Blast Corps., Conker's Bad Fur Day, and screenshot of R.C. Pro-Am for NES
There are many more where these came from...

Rare also owns the rights to a lot of under-appreciated and forgotten games that would be welcome additions to the Virtual Console: Jet Force Gemini, Blast Corps., Conker's Bad Fur Day...and if you really want to get into the ancient stuff, RC Pro-Am and it's sequel. Again, if sales of these titles were high enough, sequels could be made. There are plenty more, but I think I've made my point.

Nintendo 3DS - Rare games on the go

Nintendo 3DS Aqua
Rare games anywhere...

Here's another thing to consider. The 3DS is a pretty powerful handheld. It would be more than capable of playing just about every Rare game I have mentioned. Capcom has managed to get Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate to run on the Wii U and 3DS, and while the portable version will be scaled down, it will be pretty much the same game. In fact, the two versions can interact with each other. The new Super Smash Bros. games for the Wii U and 3DS are also said to have some sort of interactivity as well. If Nintendo owned Rare, just think of the possibilities...


If Nintendo bought Rare, all of this would be possible:

Release of GoldenEye 007 HD (assuming all legal issues were resolved)
Re-release of Perfect Dark HD on Virtual Console
Re-release of Perfect Dark Zero on Virtual Console
Development of new Perfect Dark game
Re-release of Killer Instinct 1 and 2 (arcade versions) on Virtual Console
Re-release of Killer Instinct SNES and Killer Instinct Gold (for those who prefer the console versions)
Development of Killer Instinct 3
Re-release of Banjo-Kazooie on Virtual Console
Re-release of Banjo-Tooie on Virtual Console
Re-release of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (a lot of gamers enjoyed it)
Development of Banjo-Threeie
Re-release of Jet Force Gemini on Virtual Console
Development of a new Jet Force Gemini game
Re-release of Blast Corps. on Virtual Console
Development of a new Blast Corps. game
Re-release of Conker's Bad Fur Day on Virtual Console
Development of a new Conker game
Re-release of RC Pro-Am games on Virtual Console
Development of new RC Pro-Am games (they made one but it was renamed Diddy Kong Racing)
Re-release of Battletoads games on Virtual Console
Development of new Battletoads games
Re-release of many other Rare games
Development of sequels to other Rare games
Development of new IPs
Rare games on the Nintendo 3DS

This all sounds great on paper, and yet there is one serious question...

Should Nintendo buy Rare?

I know a lot of readers are thinking "Yes! Of course Nintendo should buy Rare!" But there are a lot of things to consider. For one, Rare is not what it used to be. Many of the key players, including the founders, have left, seeking opportunities elsewhere. Also, the culture that existed while they were owned by Nintendo is completely gone.
Rare Ltd. logo
The logo isn't the only thing that's changed since Microsoft  bought the company.

Then again, Retro Studios, the Big N's new golden child, was a mess in its early days. Missed deadlines, massive layoffs, multiple games that never got off the ground - as developers go, they were a disaster. And yet, Nintendo managed to whip them into shape and get Metroid Prime out of them, followed by one blockbuster after another. If anyone knows how to unlock the maximum potential of a developer, it's Nintendo. There are still a lot of talented people at Rare, and with guidance from Miyamoto and company, they could easily be molded into a producer of triple-A games again.

Of course, the real question is money. Microsoft is fully aware that a Nintendo-owned Rare would be a powerful symbol to millions of gamers, and it is one that could cost them business. In addition to this, Rare has basically become Microsoft's Kinect branch, and while the technology isn't living up to the hype, it is still very profitable. Rare was purchased for $375 million in 2002, and taking inflation into account, along with the company's current worth and projected profits for their future projects, it seems unlikely that the Big N would be able to get their former second-party developer back at an affordable price. Should Nintendo buy Rare? That's a great question, and one that does not have an easy answer.

Closing Comments

I would love to see Rare under the ownership of Nintendo again, but I don't see it happening. The news that the Wii U is being sold at a loss means Nintendo will need to tighten the purse strings a little, and seeing as how they have been posting some major financial losses recently, now is probably not a good time to part with millions more when there are still serious questions as to how well their new console will sell. Still, we can all dream.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest Wii U news and videos. We post LOTS of videos. And since we only cover the Wii U, we often break stories before some of the larger sites do and cover lesser-known games that tend to get ignored.

*Most images downloaded from Wikipedia
*GoldenEye XBLA screenshots courtesy of MundoRare -
*Donkey Kong 64 images courtesy of
*Images used under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license

*Killer Instinct Arcade screenshots courtesy of The International Arcade Museum -
*Killer Instinct Arcade page on The International Arcade Museum
*Killer Instinct SNES and Diddy Kong Racing screenshots courtesy of The Video Game Museum -

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  1. would be a dream coming true.. conker is one of my favorite games of all time.

    1. The only thing is the voice actor of conker left Rare.

  2. Nintendo should not buy Rare. Rare is an empty shell of its former self. Why on Earth would Nintendo pay through the nose for a talent-less company, tainted by Microsoft. If you look at the sales figures for the Banjo Kazooie remakes and the Perfect Dark update, they are not impressive. I say leave Rare and its games behind. It was a golden era that is not going to be repeated. Keep them in your memory and in the good old N64.

    1. well a lot of the people from RARE are working for Retro Studios owned by Nintendo, and if they bought back RARE not only would they get the rights back for B&K,DK, and other games from the 90s, but they would also get the rest of the RARE team back...

    2. @Anonymous #2

      Nintendo has the rights to Donkey Kong anyway.

    3. Anonymous said:

      well a lot of the people from RARE are working for Retro Studios owned by Nintendo, and if they bought back RARE not only would they get the rights back for B&K,DK, and other games from the 90s, but they would also get the rest of the RARE team back...

      After Microsoft bought Rare, some of Rare's employees stayed, some of them left and started up their own studios, and some joined other companies. However, as far as I know, not a single member of Rare has joined Retro Studios.

      Also, Nintendo owns the rights to the Donkey Kong franchise. The claim that Rare has any rights to the IP is a myth. Check out this article:

      Nintendo myths that need to die -

  3. I still have both home versions of Killer Instinct (and the soundtrack CD that came with the SNES version). With all the shuffling of game licenses that has gone on in the past decade or so, I am surprise no one has picked it up and at least made a digital release. After all, who would have thought EA Sports would ever own NBA Jam and NFL Blitz?

  4. Should Nintendo buy back Rare? IMO, no because Retro Studios is filling the spot Rare once had perfectly and Rare has become a pale shadow of its former self. What Nintendo should do is buy the IP of the fallowing games: Banjo, Perfect Dark, Kameo & Killer Instinct since Microsoft is letting them go to waste by having Rare focus on only Kinect(There has only been 1 of each and nothing on Killer Instinct 3). Buy those and let Retro Studios work its magic.

  5. There are a petition for this, if you want this to happen go to:

  6. I had an XBOX, and I always liked conker live and reloaded the most of all of the games.
    And that game had the best graffics on the original XBOX!
    It should be awesome if Nintendo buy rare, because there's a change they continue the conker series!!! :D

    1. well...I had a nintendo 64 too...and on that console I played Banjo Kazooie and banjo tooie a lot! :)

  7. It would be better getting more employees at Retro and getting them doing a game per yr (3 Teams)

    Another great idea was the thing about the "spirtual" sucessor to Banjo.
    Chris Seavor was touting this in twitter maybe Nintendo could get this funded. I think it would be massive on the Wii U !

  8. “We’ve made absolutely no effort in trying to support Rare,” continued Spencer, “We didn’t care whenever a Rare veteran left, we didn’t care that none of their IPs were being used, we didn’t care when they were working on absolutely nothing at all. In fact, the only reason they got put onto Kinect Sports in the first place was because we wanted to make them the laughing stock of the video game world. It worked and now most people forget that they even exist. Sometimes I forget too.” Want to read the full thing here you go

    1. Ha! p4rgaming is always good for a laugh! Their fake news is entertaining. Thanks.


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