|Headquarters||Twycross, Leicestershire,, England|
|Industry||Video Games Developer|
Rare Ltd., also known as Rareware) is a British video game developer located in Twycross, Leicestershire, England. Founded by the Stamper Brothers Tim and Chris Stamper, (artist and programmer, respectively) as a subsidiary of their Ashby Computers & Graphics Ltd. in 1985, they made games for Nintendo systems until ultimately becoming a second-party developer in 1994 with the development and release of Donkey Kong Country. This relationship continued until 2002, when the Stamper Brothers sold their majority shares to Nintendo, making Rare a First Party developer for Nintendo and the third one outside of Japan, after with Nintendo STC and Retro Studios, and the first one in Europe.
Founding and first years
Rare was born from an out-shoot of Ashby Computers & Graphics Ltd., better known by their publishing seal of "Ultimate Play the Game," and founded by 8-bit Microcomputers developers Tim and Chris Stamper. Knowing that the end of the 8-bit personal home computers was imminent, the Stampers became interested in the development of Nintendo Entertainment System games out of Japan. By that time, they sold off part of the "Ultimate Play the Game" label to U.S. Gold and formed in 1985 a sub-division inside Ashby Computers and Graphics Ltd. named Rare Ltd. Having convinced Nintendo to allow them to develop games for their video game console after being one of the first companies to bypassing their 10NES security chip who impress Hiroshi Yamauchi himself, Rare released their first title, Slalom, a skiing game that was originally released for the Nintendo Vs. System in 1986 and later for the NES in 1987.
After that, Rare released a lot games; some were based on licensed properties, such as Spider-man or Beetlejuice, and some were original Properties, like the RC arm controller or the now infamous Battletoads. When asked about this, Ste Pickford, who was part of the team at Rare throughout the late 80s and into the early 90s, answer that they just "wanted to make as many games as they could in their 'window of opportunity' as a way to obtain profit, profit who would be use for a big investment the next generation."
Post Ohga Shrugs and the Fourth Generation
Even with knowledge of rumors of the possibility of a CD-ROM attachment for the SNES being a collaboration of Nintendo and Sony, Rare never put much attention to that. Otherwise, they were busy investing a good part of the profit earned during the Third Generation and the Early Fourth Generation into Silicon Graphics workstations. This move made Rare the most technologically advanced games developer in the United Kingdom, and situated them fairly high internationally.
With this Cutting-Edge Equipment they make a tech demo of using advanced pre-rendered 3D graphics into 2D games and rendering 3D games in real time. This impressed Nintendo Developers, specially Genyo Takeda from Nintendo R&D#3. Rare thus won the contract to make a game for the SNES using their new pre-rendered technology rechristened as "ACM" (Advanced Computer Modeling). Offered a choice of two Nintendo Intellectual properties, Kid Icarus or Donkey Kong, they choose Donkey Kong, knowing his fame for the arcade games unlike the most obscure Famicom disk system/NES game Kid Icarus.
The resulting game, Donkey Kong Country, was one of the most notable games of the era, and helped the SNES overtake its direct rival, the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, in the West. Donkey Kong Country, using advanced pre-rendered sprites that looked almost like polygons and high quality backgrounds, was the second best selling SNES game (behind Super Mario World, a game that was bundled) and the first non-Japanese game to sell over a million of copies in Japan. Two Sequels for the SNES were authorized, and this series put Rare name into the video game popular culture. Nintendo acquired a 49% stake in the company, turning Rare into a Nintendo second-party developer.
The Fifth Generation and the rise to stardom
Rare would win worldwide fame and critical acclaim during this generation. When the third main Nintendo console, the Nintendo 64, was announced and put in software development, they made two games based into the prototype's technical specification, Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2. Even when the Nintendo 64 was not result as powerful as the prototype tech specs, Rare managed to make a port of Killer Instinct 2 for the N64 named Killer Instinct Gold. It had mixed reviews due to the controls and the cut content from the Arcade version, specially the FMV sequences.
But Rare biggest hit and best selling game for the company will come later, in 1997, being interesting enough, a licensed game from a well know and beloved British Character: James Bond. The game was an Adaptation of 1995 James Bond movie, GoldenEye. The game was a First Person Shooters, made from the ground for the console and with Multiplayer, that although initially only a side-project, managed to be the game's biggest draw. It was the best selling Rare game of all time as well as the best selling non-Nintendo game for the N64, with over 10 million copies sold. The game won several accolades both nationally and worldwide and was the game that popularize the shooter genre on consoles.
After that, the people comment about a Rareware 'Royal Age' (named for the Blue and Gold Logo, who were Royal colours in Great Britain), when they launched 'nothing but hits'. This started with Diddy Kong Racing, A Mario Kart inspired Racing game that added adventure and exploration elements, and became a solid seller and a cult classic. It was followed by another hit game: Banjo Kazooie, a Super Mario 64 like 3D Platformer-Adventure game. It included a bumbling bear called Banjo and an assertive Bird named Kazooie, alongside a Skull Shaman of the name Mumbo. The game had colorful environments and impressive level design, and became a bit hit and fan-favorite among children and Adults.
Rare then released the much anticipated Sequel in 3D of their most famous work, Donkey Kong Country, as Donkey Kong 64, a massive and impressive Platformer-Adventure game, which featured big worlds and made mandatory use of the memory Expansion peripheral of the Nintendo 64. Although the game had good sales, thanks in part to bundling, it was criticized for its collection elements and similarities to Banjo-Kazooie. The same year, Rare also released Jet Force Gemini, a Third Person Shooter-Adventure game who featuring now Rare trademark collection element. It was pretty well received with its impressive graphics and the very well made adventure content.
For the end of the generation, Rare released a few more game. One was the sequel of their critical acclaimed Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie. It was received similarly to the original for its big and interconnected worlds and a new multiplayer option. Rare then released the spiritual successor of their biggest hit, GoldenEye: Perfect Dark, a Futurist First Person Shooter that added Sci-Fi Elements to the genre. It featured a Cyberpunk Corporation war featuring a female protagonist, Joanna Dark, a James Bond like Spy-Secret Agent of the Carrington Institute against the mysterious mega-corporation Datadyne.
Rare then released what is today considered their most controversial and most weird game in history, Conker's Bad Fur Day. It started as a 'cutesy platformer' in the vein of Banjo-Kazooie starring a red squirrel named Conker and was named as "Twelve Tales: Conker 64," but was were replaced with a very black humored and gory platform featuring an young adult, sarcastic and alcoholic Red Squirrel still named Conker and mention that the 'Twelve Tales' were the Childhood he want to forget about it. The Game was the first M rated game made by Rare(and the Second one published by Nintendo in the west, after the inflexible position of Nintendo of Changing the Content and Script of Mother 3/Earthbound 64 in the west), and when barely sell decently(enough for give profit in both USA and Europe, the game was never released in japan for localization issues), the game was considered a cult classic among fans and was critical praised for its technical achievements in graphics and sound, for having every line in the game with voice.
Sixth Generation and the Change of Leadership
When the Plans for the Upcoming Nintendo Sixth generation console codenamed Project Dolphin (latter rename the Nintendo GameCube) were made public, Rare created several tech demo, showing high polygon model of Joanna Dark of Perfect Dark fame, plus several videos using Conker and Banjo-Kazooie characters to show the advance rendering capacities of the Dolphin.
Several project shifted from the Nintendo 64 to the Nintendo GameCube, like the Zelda-like Adventure game Dinosaur Planet, which was considered to become a Star Fox game, but the idea was dropped to avoid more development time, and new upcoming intellectual properties, like Kameo and a Sabreman Revival. However, the Stamper Brothers, Rare's owners and directors, found themselves in a shift of priorities. With more than two decades of experience, they started to become tired of the video game business, and they want to pursue other interests. Thus, after some negotiation with Hiroshi Yamauchi and Nintendo Board of Directors, they sold their remaining 51% of shares in exchange for an unknown sum (rumored to be near to $50 million dollars) and a minor share of Nintendo Stocks. Thus, Rare Ltd became a Nintendo First Party Developer and the first one outside the United States and Japan and the first one in Europe.
Just before the Formal Acquisition by Nintendo, Rare launch one of its last game under the Stamper Bros leadership and old logo. Dinosaur Planet, a Legend of Zelda inspired Action-Adventure game, told the history of the friends Sabre and Krystal, two anthropomorphic foxes, along with their sidekicks Tricky and Kyte triceratops of the former ruling EarthWalker tribe, and Randorn, a wizard who is Sabre's father, fighting against the evil General Scales, the leader of the humanoid-Allosaurus "SharpClaw" tribe, who have enslaved the EarthWalkers and is fighting against the Pteranodon-like CloudRunner tribe while looking for the mystical SpellStones, which have mysterious powers. One of the game main mechanics was the SwapStone, which would let the player switch between Krystal and Sabre, to solved different puzzle based in the Krystal magic or Sabre's physical prowess. The game received a lot critical praise for this impressive graphics pretty early in the GameCube's life, especially the fur texture of their anthropomorphic protagonists. However some critics panned it for its similarities to Zelda, though they would ironically give it more praise after the somewhat mixed reception of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Even after the divided opinions, the game was a solid seller, with more that two million copies and being a the swansong of the Stamper Bros of their company.
Soon after the company's acquisition by Nintendo, Rare completed Donkey Kong Racing, the sequel to the N64's Diddy Kong Racing. Although the game had the misfortune of coming out around the same time as other similar Racing games on the GameCube, including the much anticipated Mario Kart: Double Dash as well as Kirby Air Ride, it was still a success, and sold about 4 million copies over the GameCube's life.
In 2004, the studio then released the controversial Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Originally believed to be the sequel to Conker's Bad Fur Day, the game was praised for its simple gameplay, level design, and visuals, but criticized for the very same simplicity and brevity. Nevertheless, the game continued the style of open-world platforming that Rare was so well known for.
2005 brought two major Rare projects: Perfect Dark: Zero, the successor of their popular N64 FPS, and Kameo: Elements of Power, a new IP in the action-adventure genre. Neither game was as well received as Rare's earlier works, both both were among the better received games in their respective genres for the GameCube.
Rare's first game on the Revolution was the launch title Viva Pinata, a life simulation game similar to series like Harvest Moon. The game received generally positive reviews, and received a follow-up two years later in the form of Trouble in Paradise.
By this point, however, Rare had released the much anticipated Banjo-Threeie, the third game in the Banjo series. This game was a re-imagining of the original game, taking place in many similar environments and with many of the series's traditional characters. However, the game was criticized for its relatively old-school feel, especially in comparison to the recent Super Mario Galaxy. Still, the game was well received, and had over a million sales.
At this point, much of the original team at Rare had left the company, especially since the departure of the Stamper brothers some years earlier. Rare decided to refocus their efforts on smaller, less ambitious projects while preparing for a larger project. This culminated in 2009's Revolution Sports, an iteration in Nintendo's popular Revolution series aimed at more casual audiences. The game was a modest hit, and was one of the best received sports minigame collections of the generation.
In 2011, Rare's future finally became clear. A third installment in the Killer Instinct franchise was announced to be in production for Nintendo's next system, the Stream. Footage of the game was leaked to the public after E3 2012, and there was much hype for the game.
Partial List of Games
- Donkey Kong Country series - (1994 to 1996)
- Killer Instinct - (1995)
- Killer Instinct Gold - (1996)
- Goldeneye 007 - (1997)
- Diddy Kong Racing - (1997)
- Banjo-Kazooie - (1998)
- Donkey Kong 64 - (1999)
- Perfect Dark - (2000)
- Banjo-Tooie - (2000)
- Conker's Bad Fur Day - (2001)
- Diddy Kong Pilot - (2002)
- Dinosaur Planet - (2002)
- Donkey Kong Racing - (2003)
- Donkey Kong Country GBA ports - (2003-2005)
- Grabbed by the Ghoulies - (2004)
- Perfect Dark: Zero - (2005)
- Kameo: Elements of Power - (2005)
- Viva Pinata - (2006)
- Diddy Kong Racing Nitro - (2007)
- Banjo-Threeie - (2008)
- Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise - (2008)
- Revolution Sports - (2009)
- Goldeneye 007 HD Remix - (2010)
- Perfect Dark 2 - (2011)
- Donkey Kong 64 3D - (2011)
- Killer Instinct 3 - (2013)