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Ex-Rare dev: Company is "a survivor"

Former Rare developers talk about the challenges and changes Microsoft brought to the company

A new feature on UK developer Rare has revealed former employees' true feelings about the Microsoft acquisition in 2002, and explained why it was so essential.

"I think what has happened to Rare really just reflects what has happened in the industry at large: larger teams, larger budgets and reduced risk," said Phil Tossell, director of gameplay and HCI at Rare until September 2010.

"In that sense I think the Rare of today is in a better position to deal with the demands of the modern game industry. It was undoubtedly a challenging process for everyone at Rare and I'm sure at Microsoft as well, but ultimately I think it was necessary for the continued survival of Rare."

Tossell shared his views in an exclusive Eurogamer feature, detailing the history of the Banjo Kazooie developer.

"The games industry is driven by certain cycles, and with escalating team sizes and production costs, I don't think the Rare of old could have continued as it was."

He also admitted that while the 100 per cent acquisition was vital to the survival of the company, it also bought cultural changes that many on the development team struggled with. He particularly mentioned a feeling among the employees that control and trust were somewhat lacking.

"There was also a gradual introduction of certain Microsoft behaviours that crept into the way we did things: lots more meetings, performance reviews and far more regard for your position within the company," he said.

"While these weren't necessarily good or bad per se, they began to erode the traditional Rare culture and way of doing things. Many of the people who'd been there a long time found these changes extremely hard to accept."

Justin Cook, who was a principle designer at the company until November 2011, agreed with Tossell's views, and saw a strong future for his former employer.

"You can't compare 'old' and 'new' Rare because the comparison is no more valid than comparing steam engines to bullet trains," he argued.

"What is incredible is that Rare still exists. It is still making high-quality games that millions of people play. There have been bigger and more successful studios but there aren't many that are still in business and going strong. Rare is a survivor and as we approach the next massive upheaval in the games industry it would be foolish to write off a studio as talented and adaptable as Rare."

For more insights from Rare employees and Microsoft, and unique insights from Microsoft's Ed Fries, read the full feature.

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Rachel Weber avatar
Rachel Weber: Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.
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