Rare is a British video game developer located in Twycross, England. The company was established in 1985 by brothers Tim and Chris Stamper, who previously founded Ultimate Play the Game. While Ultimate Play the Game focused on the creation of computer video games for systems such as ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, their new entity “Rare” would focus on the home console market.
Tim and Chris Stamper formed a relationship with Nintendo very early in the life of Rare securing an unlimited budget from Nintendo, primarily to concentrate on the development of Nintendo Entertainment System games. Over the course of Rare’s first several years developing for the Nintendo Entertainment System they created many successful games such as Wizards & Warriors, R.C. Pro-Am and Battletoads.
The success of Rare proved to be very beneficial to Nintendo and it did not go unnoticed. Nintendo continued to invest in Rare and in 1994 bought a 25% stake in Rare making them a partial owner of the company. Nintendo gradually increased their stake in Rare to 49% essentially making Rare a prominent second-party developer for Nintendo. During this period, Rare started selling their games under the trademark name “Rareware”.
The company was considered one of Nintendo’s key developers and had enough recognition that Nintendo offered Rare the Nintendo catalogue of characters to create a 3D CGI game. The Stamper brothers asked for Donkey Kong, resulting in the creation of Donkey Kong Country. Donkey Kong Country was developed by a total of 20 people over an 18-month development cycle. The game was a critical success, with critics praising the game’s highly advanced visuals and art style. Donkey Kong Country sold over eight million copies worldwide, making it the third best-selling game in the Super Nintendo library.
Rare became synonymous for high quality games pumping out hit after hit throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Rare received international recognition and critical acclaim for games such as the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Killer Instinct, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
|Parent Company||Xbox Game Studios|
|Predecessor||Ultimate Play the Game|
|Number of Employees||Approximately 200|
|Studio Head||Craig Duncan|
During the end of the Nintendo 64 lifecycle Rare started to lose core talent and with the transition to the GameCube development cost gradually increased and Nintendo did not provide Rare with more capital nor did they purchase the company’s remaining stake. Rare continue to lose core talent during the early stages of development for the GameCube and the Stamper brothers started looking for potential buyer. Activision and Microsoft showed interest in the company making multiple visits to their offices in England with purchase offers.
In 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare for $375 million in a deal which retained the original brand, logo and most intellectual properties. Rare became a first party developer for Microsoft under their Xbox Game Studios division. Character trademarks from games developed by Rare for Nintendo consoles, such as Conker of Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo of the Banjo-Kazooie series, were retained by Rare; intellectual property created by Nintendo, such as Donkey Kong and Star Fox, were retained by Nintendo.
Since Microsoft was not part of the handheld video-game console market, Rare continued to develop games for Nintendo handheld consoles after the acquisition. In August 2003 Rare and Microsoft entered a two-year agreement with THQ for Rare to publish games for the Game Boy Advance. Rare has since focused on developing games exclusively for Microsoft’s video game consoles, including Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, and Viva Piñata. In 2007, the Stampers left Rare to pursue other opportunities and, in 2010, the company’s focus shifted to the Xbox Live Avatar and Kinect, releasing three Kinect Sports games. In 2015, Rare developed Rare Replay, an Xbox One-exclusive compilation containing 30 of its games to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Rare’s most recent game, Sea of Thieves, was released in 2018.
Inside Look of Rare's Headquarters and full history of Rare