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Rare is the latest victim of Kinect fallout

How the mighty have fallen. The last three games Rare developed were, in reverse chronological order: Kinect Sports Rivals, Kinect Sports: Season Two, and Kinect Sports. Now, Microsoft is distancing itself from the device Rare's last few games have relied on by taking Kinect out of the core Xbox One package. Coincidentally, CVG has reported that close to 20 Rare employees are being let go. Among those ex-employees are senior staff members Chris Sutherland and Gavin Price, both of whom have been with the company for over 15 years. These layoffs comprise roughly 10% of Rare's staff--and, sadly, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

It's become clear over the last few years that Microsoft is unsure of what to do with the remnants of this once-illustrious studio. After losing the founders and much of the top leadership over the course of the last console generation, Rare failed to produce any commercial hits, despite putting out some very well-regarded titles. Since their last non-Kinect title, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, they've been continually hit with layoffs, further diluting the brand and reducing the studio's output to minigame collections and the occasional Xbox Live Avatar outfit.

Seeing Rare scale down and move away from their well-known franchises was tough, but at least they were still in business. And for what it’s worth, the Kinect Sports games were reasonably well-liked. But just as Rare had begun settling into a comfortable new space for themselves as one of the only reliable Kinect developers, Microsoft has pulled the rug out from under them once again. Now, Rare’s most recent title is a whole lot less desirable, and their direction moving forward is even less clear.

For many, the news of a Kinect-less Xbox One package is welcome. The price is dropping, and people who are uncomfortable with or indifferent towards the Kinect no longer have to pay for it. If anything, the price drop will likely drive sales and get the Xbox One into more homes, which, in the long-term, will be good for developers and consumers alike. But in the short term, it can be pretty scary for developers like Rare, that are working on (or have recently completed) games which live or die by the Kinect’s installed-base.

Harmonix is another developer that's banking heavily on Kinect. Fantasia: Music Evolved is nearly here, and with the success of the Dance Central franchise on 360, there’d be no reason not to continue it on Xbox One. But it seems that Microsoft didn’t keep the studio in the loop, since some of its employees seemed rather miffed by the news of Kinect’s excision. They're right to be afraid; soon, many Xbox One owners won't have Kinects, and one or two good games won't be enough to convince them to grab one.

Of course, Rare is owned by Microsoft, and Microsoft isn't abandoning the Kinect entirely. They'll want to continue to sell units; and with most third-parties likely saying "peace" To Kinect, somebody will have to make games for the thing. In that sense, Rare may be shielded from the Kinect fallout, and these layoffs may be the end of the consequences. But crippling the few developers who were trying to keep the Kinect afloat certainly won’t do Microsoft any favors.

18 comments

  • ultimatepunchrod - May 22, 2014 9:37 a.m.

    I do really wish that Rare would get another chance to make something great, but it looks like that may never happen.
  • peaceful765 - May 22, 2014 6:28 a.m.

    I remember Ashby computer graphics and Ultimate: Play the game back in the 1980's and followed the company into 90's as Rare. A soon as MS bought them they seemed to lose a lot of their past glory and magic. Almost as if the enthusiasm for making innovative, ground breaking games evaporated and they were forced to churn out Mcgames for a living. This love of games was something that Nintendo seemed to try and nurture from the company. This was once the company that created Knightlore but delayed it's release as it was so cutting edge they were afraid it would ruin Sabre wulfs chances of making a profit. They knew they were good (the Stampers did anyway) and knew they were doing things with the hardware that inspired a generation of game makers. What's left now is a hollow shell that dishes out games-to-order. Seems nowadays there are a lot of inspirational businessmen (or women) in the industry but no true game making innovators, none that are inspiring a new generation anyway. A reflection of changing times? Well, maybe Naughty Dog. lol
  • NobleWeaponGames - May 21, 2014 7:55 p.m.

    Rare was without a doubt one of if not THE best developer back in the N64 days (definitely my all-time favorite). Sadly those days are long gone. I wish some of their IPs could be resurrected whether it is by Rare themselves or by another studio like they did with Killer Instinct. I'd go crazy for a true sequel to Perfect Dark (PDZero was terrible in my opinion) or Jet Force Gemini.
  • Redeater - May 21, 2014 3:55 p.m.

    Microsoft killing the kinect (because that's what they are doing). Nintendo getting the living crap kicked out of them because nobody wants their gimmicky fads. Meanwhile, Sony is kicking ass with their console whose main selling point is......that its a fucking console. We all knew this was coming and I couldn't be happier to have companies scramble to show us games over terrible peripheral controls. *smiles smugly
  • chamoo81 - May 21, 2014 1:16 p.m.

    This is good news. Motion gaming is a bad thing. I hope it dies and Rare can focus on making good games instead.
  • Shigeruken - May 20, 2014 10:34 p.m.

    Force Rare to produce garbage. Fire Rare staff for producing garbage. Microsoft is the worst.
  • g1rldraco7 - May 20, 2014 8:39 p.m.

    Wow I was not expecting this to happen :(
  • BladedFalcon - May 20, 2014 8:27 p.m.

    Um... Rare has been the victim of Microsoft's mismanagement almost from the moment they were bought, and it's safe to say that for practical purposes, they have been dead for years, if not decades. Saying that Rare is a victim NOW is like saying a corpse has become a victim of decapitation years after the person has died.
  • shawksta - May 20, 2014 10:10 p.m.

    Talking about Rare's standing as of current isnt the problem, Its the fact that they had to kick their butts since 2010 with Kinect games, only for the dropped support to cripple them, like it or not, Kinect Sports did pretty well selling for them which kept the franchise running, but right now with the Kinect Support dropping, its not good for them, especially since they are one of the only few devs out there willing to keep Kinect going.
  • BladedFalcon - May 21, 2014 7:40 a.m.

    ...But who cares? the Rare that has been making Kinect games is not the Rare we knew and loved back in the SNES and N64 days. Why would we care about anything this Rare does, and why should we acre of they live or die at this point?
  • shawksta - May 21, 2014 10:25 a.m.

    I remember you asking me that before. And your right, but the thing is, its not about old Rare right now, and it shouldnt be, we all know they are long gone. The current matter is that Kinect Sports was a big hit for them sales wise and for Kinect, but right now they are victim to the dropped Kinect fallout. We shouldnt care that its Rare, its that they are one of Kinect's biggest supporters.
  • BladedFalcon - May 21, 2014 11:38 a.m.

    ...Well, far as I'm concerned, if all this new RARE was good for is making Wii sports knoc-offs.,. they are better off dead anyway, that has always been my main point.
  • bobob101 - May 20, 2014 7:16 p.m.

    What I would love to see come out of this is Nintendo buying Rare from Microsoft, preferably for really cheap. While I know that Nintendo has a strange track record of not buying studios to produce for them, but rather having partnerships like back when they worked with Square. But I do think having a studio like Rare would help in getting games out and onto the Wii U. And the Wii U needs games.
  • shawksta - May 20, 2014 7:36 p.m.

    Even if they did, you have to put in mind that current Rare, isnt the same Rare as before. Rare recently said that "A Banjo and Goldeneye game arent what people actually want" What they SHOULD do is buy the IP, and collect the old Rare devs.
  • J-Fid - May 20, 2014 8 p.m.

    THIS is what they should do IF they do anything.
  • Vonter - May 20, 2014 6:33 p.m.

    What about the IPs? I mean is that such a valuable asset for Microsoft? Do they really believe they'll ever make a Conker, Jet Force Gemini, Blast Corps, Battletoads, Banjo etc?
  • Slipperyjoe - May 20, 2014 4:54 p.m.

    Sell rare back to Nintendo? I know there not the same team as they use to be but Nintendo need some games for the wii u. A banjo kazooie on wii u would be pretty tasty
  • Cyberninja - May 20, 2014 6:45 p.m.

    As a Nintendo fan I don't think it would do much to have rare back they are a shell of their former selfs and I don't think it would be worth it for Nintendo

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