Rare has as vibrant a back catalogue as any venerable developer, and after years of work in the salt mines of Kinext and Xbox Avatars, the company has started to find its footing again. The colourful pirate sandbox Sea of Thieves has carved out a loving community, the upcoming adventure Everwild looks lovely, and the company’s working on a Battletoads revival. But it seems classic series returns are going to be the exception from here on out.
Rare says its focus is now on new IP – not the classics of the 90s. “Doing new things has always been part of Rare’s DNA,” director of audience and brand strategy Simon Prodger tells GamesIndustry.biz. “All we’re doing is really formalising that.”
Prodger says that “community attitudes have changed significantly over the last few years,” as fans have bought into the studio’s new titles, they’ve stopped asking about the likes of Banjo and Perfect Dark. “People were very excited about Everwild. We didn’t see any: ‘Oh it’s not Banjo 3’. It’s a studio journey that the fanbase has been on as well.”
Indie dev Dlala Studios is taking the lead on the upcoming Battletoads revival, and Prodger says this is an “interesting experiment” for the company, offering a vague hint that other studios might have the opportunity to pick up other Rare IP in the future.
But that might be a longshot, according to studio head Craig Duncan. “Battletoads was a Venn diagram of the right opportunity at the right time,” born because of Dlala’s UI work for Sea of Thieves, its animation tech, and love for Battletoads at the top of the studio. “The process is then to assess it and work out if it fits with our strategy. It’s easy to be busy on multiple things, but what is the real worthwhile thing to do?”
One rumoured collaboration would’ve seen Playtonic – a studio made up largely of former Rare staffers – take their expertise from Yooka-Laylee into a Banjo-Kazooie revival. But alas, that rumour was merely the result of overactive fan imaginations.
While nothing’s ever truly off the table, as we start looking ahead to those E3 2020 games, don’t necessarily expect Banjo to jump up on the Microsoft stage this year. Personally, I’m hoping for another Viva Pinata – by which I mean a totally-unexpected gem that lands out of nowhere and immediately reaches the upper echelon of the company’s classics.