Is Microsoft’s Xbox 360 studio Rare next on the chopping block?

September 27, 2008

Is Microsoft's first party studio Rare next on the chopping block? A couple of days ago I wrote a story about how Microsoft announced the closure of one of its first party studio, Ensemble Studios. The stated reason behind this decision to close one of its studios was due to lack of scalability. In other words, Microsoft execs felt that Ensemble as a venture could not grow profitably. This raises an interesting question; could the same fate fall upon Rare as well?

In the internal memo sent out by Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Game Studios, he said “it became clear to us that closing the studio and redeploying those resources to other more scalable ventures is the right thing for our business at this time.”  A scalable venture is usually when the effort remains relatively the same while the consumer demand increases exponentially.

Apparently, even though Ensemble’s Age series was profitable, Microsoft execs felt it wasn’t scalable enough. Age of Empires III was listed as the 8th best selling PC game and went on to selling over 2 million units. It seems the strategy to shift Microsoft’s portfolio towards the casual market is clear. The redesigned dashboard for the Xbox 360 is telling of this move.

In an interview with the Guardian, Peter Moore, former exec of Microsoft Game Studios (MGS), said:

“I think the industry had passed Rare by, … It’s a strong statement, but what they were good at, new consumers didn’t care about anymore.. their skillsets were from a different time and a different place and were not applicable in today’s market.”

Moore makes it pretty clear in this candid interview what he thinks of Rare. One could assume if Peter Moore was still the head of MGS, Rare might be facing a similar fate as that of Ensemble Studios. However, Moore is no longer in charge of MGS, leaving Phil Spencer to make the decision.

In an interview with Shacknews, Greg Mayles, Rare creative director, revealed his feelings about the comments made by Peter Moore. He also talks about his reaction to the news of Ensemble Studios’s closure.

Mayles seems to have taken a very neutral approach by indicating that he doesn’t want to read too much into what Peter Moore meant in the interview. Also, Mayles revealed that the closure of Ensemble Studios was as out of left field for him as it was to everyone else.

When asked how he reacted to the news, he said:

“Surprise like everybody else. I mean we kind of don’t know the exact details. There must have been a good reason behind it.”

Mayles also revealed that he is a bit concerned about the future of Rare, but feels that could be a great motivational driving force for him to develop the best game possible.

He said:

“Eh, I think if you feel too secure that’s kind of a–that’s a bad thing, because you get into kind of a comfy mode. We’re always trying to push what’s possible and think of new ways of doing things, and kind of look at ourselves and the games we do. Whether people want to play them is ultimately how we’ll be judged, and how people will look back on us in years to come.”

With Rare’s next big title, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, getting ready to launch in November it is understandable to be a little bit nervous, especially in light of recent events. We will be keeping a close eye on this upcoming title to see if this push will be the saving grace for Rare.

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13 Responses to “Is Microsoft’s Xbox 360 studio Rare next on the chopping block?”

  1. Ivan_PSP:

    Wow Microsoft is a disaster by the end of this year might halve half of their gaming studio shutdown. Which can only mean those developers can’t come out with game ideas aka failure. Everyday the Xbox brand gets closer to extinction.

  2. SW:

    Rare is dead wood anywhoos, care to clone Goldeneye AGAIN?. Good riddance.

  3. Devise:

    LOL @ the first 2 comments. This isn’t news it’s speculation … actually it’s not even that, it’s empty theory.

    Rare have sold almost 4 million units of software on the 360 with another 2 titles coming out this year. That is far from a failure.

  4. Ivan_PSP:

    never heard of Rare, apart from Banjo is there any major games that they have been associated with?

  5. Antonidas:

    Rare is far from being closed! They are one of the best developer out there! Would you think Microsoft would let that happen, I don’t think so!

  6. Ivan_PSP:

    Rare=Bad Games

  7. horatio:

    Mike ferro, you are an idiot. Rare’s pinata games sell extremely well, and banjo kazooie looks fantastic. And microsoft entrusted the avatar system to them also. Why aren’t you speculating on the studios that sony closed, and the games they cancelled? Oh wait, you did. You said that one of the canned games looks good. Unbiased journalism at it’s best indeed.

    It is time you grew up and started posting facts rather than the hopes that you share with ivan.

  8. Jay:

    Need to do a little more research before printing this propaganda.

    http://play.tm/news/21560/microsoft-lionhead-and-rare-safe/

    What is about AU sites that seem so disconnected from the real world? Haha

  9. Jay:

    Most coders are hired on a contract basis. Only a few lead coders and upper management are full time employee’s. When they break up its that small group that no longer gets along (for what ever reason). How do you get 6 rich pot smoking coders to come to terms with the last 3 years of their work being…. mediocre. You don’t. After the blame game there is only Divorce. Then renewal… relax :)

  10. SW:

    @ Devise.

    Understand that everything, EVERYTHING on blorge tends to be rumor, speculation or just pure flame bait.

    I personally wanted to express my opinion about Rare.

    But have yourself a nice day and lol at some more posts why don’t you! :) Makes you feel great I bet :)

    Now back to Wipeout :D

  11. Bourne:

    FLAME BAIT.

  12. winlonghorn:

    The speculation that hardcore gaming will die is utter crap! I can tell you now that gaming as a whole would die if that happened! Far too many gamers enjoy this type of game and the companies know that well! I highly doubt that they would take that risk! Who the heck wants to sit and play bejewelled all day long every day? Not I! The author of this article needs to wake up and smell the folgers!! ;)

  13. Edgar:

    Ivan_PSP: If the XBox 360 is getting closer to extinction where does that leave Sony’s Play Station brand? Last I checked the XBox 360 still has a lead on Sony by 5 million units, and that lead has been increasing since MS announced the new price cut. Furthermore unlike the PS3 the XBox 360 is actually turning a profit; whereas many experts believe it will take Sony at least 10 years to recoup losses on their PS3. In other words the PS3 will not recoup its losses. I’m not particularly happy about the closure of Ensemble, but the XBox 360 has been a great success for Microsoft. It seems clear to me that MS is continuing to put together a winning strategy, and that means they have to put together a strategy that not only increases their market share but also allows them to turn a profit.

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