Another long-time game developer could be on deaths doors if recent speculation is to be believed. After giving us a series of classic games in the mid-1990s on the Nintendo 64, Rare has since gone on to do projects which to be honest haven’t exactly captured the same feel and fun factor that was found in their previous work. Perhaps some of the blame on Rare’s less than stellar offerings can be attributed to the management of the company, but of course that also falls on Microsoft Game Studios, which are reportedly shifting the focus and staff size of Rare once again.
According to sources, one of which was posted on the sometimes relaiable but often reviled message board 4Chan, Rare has fired its core art team. Now Rare isn’t in a position in which the art section of their studio is filled with empty cubicles and desks as they do have some talent there – cheap talent to be exact. Reportedly Rare, presumably under the guise of the new Microsoft chap who is running the studio, has fired its existing art team and in place of it has hired a series of temporary artists, who while they may be talented are often cheap to acquire the services of. Hiring temps may not be as bad as obtaining the services of a series of Chinese labor artists to animate a hit American TV cartoon, but it’s still a pretty low thing to do.
It appears that the Rare art team isn’t the only thing that’s being changed as several established and otherwise veteran level members of the studios have also since gone on to leave. While it’s normal for people to leave a studio over time, it’s somewhat odd for key staffers to leave during this economy or merely be contractors for small gigs.
For the large sum of money Microsoft spent on acquiring Rare, which was for $375 million, one would think that Microsoft would push the studio more to become a key source of AAA games, yet here were are now, with people getting fired and Rare only releasing a small handful of AAA games in the last six years. We all knew that Microsoft was shifting the focus of Rare around from producing games like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts to produce content for Microsoft Avatars and the Microsoft Kinect but I don't think anyone knew things were going to be this radical. Rare has seemingly been put into Microsoft’s prime casual games developer slot and that just doesn’t sit right with me. I’m all for people getting their foot into the door through being hired as temps, but having Rare merely produce Kinect games like Kinect Sports 2 just seems like a waste of talent to me given the history of the studio.
Of course all of this news isn’t official as of now, but a good chunk of the Rare staff has left, so the news that temps are being hired is probably legit as well. It’s nice that people are employed and Rare is still alive, but what’s going to happen if Kinect Sports 2 doesn’t do that well at retail? Microsoft has already cancelled a Rare game for the Kinect so what’s from stopping them from closing down the studio and just outsourcing the Avatar development to another firm? A scenario like that could be far off from happening but if anything this generation has proven to us it’s that anything can happen, even the most unexpected of things.