British developer Rare, the legendary studio founded by the Stamper brothers, is thought to have been bought by Microsoft in a deal worth between £250 million and £350 million – with an official announcement expected at X02 in Seville later this month.
The studio, which has traditionally been seen as one of Nintendo's leading second-party development houses – producing key titles for the N64 such as Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie and Jet Force Gemini – is currently working on Starfox Adventures for the GameCube, and the production of that title is thought to be unaffected by the deal.
The future of Rare’s other GameCube titles, however, is uncertain. Many of them may make the transition to the Xbox – with the forthcoming Perfect Dark 2 expected to be an Xbox exclusive title, for one. Work on the company’s Game Boy Advance titles is likely to continue unaffected, as Microsoft has already indicated a willingness to co-develop titles for that platform.
The strongest confirmation of the deal yet has come from sources within the company, who told us that employees were notified of the deal in the past fortnight. The Stamper family has made its intentions to leave the games industry clear for around two years, but a rumoured sale to Activision fell through when the number two publisher baulked at the asking price of the studio.
Nintendo is a major shareholder in Rare, owning approximately 49 per cent of the company; it’s thought that it will be selling its stake to Microsoft as part of the deal. Rare’s relationship with the Japanese platform holder has cooled significantly over the past few years, particularly due to the recent departure of long-time allies within Nintendo such as Howard Lincoln. Having persuaded vital Japanese giants such as Sega, Namco, Square and Capcom to develop for the Cube, Rare’s importance to Nintendo has diminished greatly, and the lure of Microsoft’s greenbacks seems to have been enough to convince them to part with their stake in the studio.