When I asked "Banjo-Kazooie" creator Gregg Mayles about ex-Microsoft Xbox marketing chief Peter Moore's recent comments about Rare and a gaming event in San Francisco yesterday, he became visibly uncomfortable.
Rare is owned by Microsoft and has a big fall this year, with the release of "Viva Pinata" and "Banjo-Kazooie" sequels.
But Moore had recently been speaking skeptically of the once-mighty Rare to the U.K. Guardian's gaming blog, stating "Their skillsets were from a different time and a different place and were not applicable in today's market."
Who likes hearing that their former boss thinks they're out of touch?
Mayles avoided citing Moore by name when I asked him about the comments but defended his company.
"I don't take much notice about what people say about our games I work on, whether positive or negative," he said. "I think you just have to get it clear in your mind what you want to do and try and let that vision come to life. Obviously, when it's finished, you can look back and say 'yeah, that was really successful' or 'no, that wasn't quite so successful,' but at least I can sit back and say 'yeah, that's the game I wanted it to be.'"
Mayles and I talked about Rare's position in gaming these days. If some people are claiming they're out of touch, then how do they see themselves fitting in?
"We've been asked that question quite a lot -- and even more recently," he explained. "I guess our position…that's a difficult one. We've always been seen as a bit, I don't know, willing to take a chance on doing something different and trying to come up with new experience. Or, if it's a game in an established genre, what we can do to add to that genre, rather than just tag it on and we can do a game in that genre."
Does that mean Rare has an internal mandated design philosophy? Not really.
"We never really sat down and thought 'alright, this is our mission, we're gonna do X and we're gonna do Y,'" said Mayles. "It's more of an organic thing where we look at the games we think people might want to play or try to think of new experiences that people might enjoy. We've never really had a kind of set-in-stone plan of what we're going to be doing for the next three or five years."
"I don't take much notice about what people say about our games I work on, whether positive or negative"
Moore had told the Guardian that "the industry had past Rare by." But Rare does have beloved franchises from its past that some fans just might want to see in the present.
With the new "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts," for example, Rare marks a return to one of their most popular modern properties. But don't expect that to become a pattern for the UK studio. Rare is not in the midst of an internal franchise revival, and Mayles more or less squashed recent rumors that we'd be seeing a new installment in the "Killer Instinct" series.
"No, I wouldn't say we've gotten a set of agenda that we're now gonna do that same process on every one of our [intellectual properties]," he said. "I think for 'Banjo' it was the right thing to do. For some of the other IP, the right thing to do probably is not look at them again. Maybe the right thing to do in the future for some of them is to look at them again."
As for a "Killer Instinct" sequel...
"To me, if you're just doing a game because of IP, that's not the right thing to do," he said. "If someone came up with some revolutionary idea for a new fighting game, yeah, we might think of resurrecting 'Killer Instinct.' But what we're not gonna do is just say 'okay, there's this kind of vocal, fairly small vocal minority of real die-hard fans out there that want to see KI, so therefore, we should be doing KI.' That's not how we'd approach it."
Looks like we can toss that idea out for now. But Mayles wouldn't rule out the idea that Rare would return to their older properties again. They just have to have the right idea.
"Who knows what could be next?" he said.
What do you want next from Rare?
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