OverviewRare was formed in England in 1982 by Chris and Tim Stamper, under the original name of Ultimate Play the Game. They made many games for the home computers of that era (primarily the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64) and were instrumental in the commercialisation of the computer games industry via their pricing, packaging and advertising policies.
In 1985 the Stampers sold the Ultimate name to US Gold (who produced all Ultimate games post-Gunfright) and began to develop for the NES under the name of Rare Ltd. The name was however still used until 1986 and Dragon Skulle was the last game to use it. Rare Coin-it, a sister company, was formed in Miami under separate directorship, but Rare only produced four coin-ops (only one of which it published itself).
They produced a large number of NES games including RC Pro-Am and the Battletoads franchise (possibly based on the then-topical success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). During the NES days Rare became allied with Zippo Games, later buying that company from Steve and John Pickford and renaming it Rare Manchester. During this period Rare developed many licenses, and also programmed conversions.
In 1993/4 Rare risked the expense of a great deal of silicon graphics technology. This resulted in the creation of the Donkey Kong Country series for the SNES. Killer Instinct for the arcades (published by Midway, with subsequent console conversions published by Nintendo) used the same technology with similarly successful results.
The creation of Donkey Kong Country, apart from making Rare rich (it was released after the release of the SEGA Saturn, toward the end of the SNES' lifetime, resulting in it being the only obvious product for SNES owners to buy that Christmas), sealed Rare's relationship with Nintendo. Nintendo had bought 25% of Rare shares in 1995, meaning that Rare became a Nintendo second party developer. This relationship flourished after the release of the N64, which Rare supported with a string of high selling games. GoldenEye 007 sold around five million copies worldwide.
In September 2002 Rare was bought by Microsoft for an alleged $375 million and they were tasked to develop two launch titles for the new Xbox 360 console that was released in November 2005: Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero. Although fairly well received, they didn't match the success of Rare's earlier system sellers. In the first three years after the Microsoft acquisition Rare also created titles for THQ such as Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and Banjo Pilot (2005) in the Banjo-Kazooie series, as well as Sabre Wulf (2004) and It's Mr. Pants (2004). Rare also made two titles for Microsoft for the original Xbox: Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003) and Conker: Live & Reloaded (2005).
In January 2007, it was announced that co-founders Chris and Tim Stamper were leaving the company that they once founded to pursue other opportunities. After the Xbox 360 launch titles Rare was almost unique focused on creating the Viva Piñata franchise for Microsoft. Others projects were Diddy Kong Racing DS (2007) returning to an original franchise, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008) as another entry in a long-running series, and the XBLA game Jetpac Refuelled (2007).
As one of Microsoft's cornerstone developers Rare created Kinect Sports for the launch of Xbox 360 Kinect peripheral in November 2010, as the equivalent of Wii Sports for the Nintendo Wii launch, even though Kinect Sports was not bundled with the device.
Also Known As
- Rareware (from 1994 to 2003)
- Rare Ltd. (from 1987 to 1994)
- Ultimate - Play the Game (from 1983 to 1986)
- Ashby Computers and Graphics Ltd. (from 1983 to 1994)
TriviaIn the Golden Joystick Award 1983 Ultimate was awarded as Software House of the Year (other nominations were: Melbourne House, Imagine and Llamasoft). The award was organised by the magazine Computer and Video Games and only included UK companies and games by UK companies.
Related Web Sites
- Rare, Ltd. (official website)
- Mundo Rare (A Spanish Rare fansite with comprehensive information that is also English-friendly.)
- RareNet (A collaborative index of all things Rare)
- The Games Machine: Interview with Tim and Chris Stamper 1988. (Very big article over the early years, the turning to Japan and one of the very rare interviews with the founders of Ultimate and Rare.)
- The Rare Witch Project (A Rare fansite specializing in unlocking game secrets.)
- Ultimate Wurlde (A largely static site with lots of information on the company, the mystique, and the games.)
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