Kinect Sports Rivals was supposed to be a launch title for the Xbox One. Had the motion-based sports game from Rare released alongside the machine, I imagine it would have done a little better at retail.
Instead, according to Eurogamer's sources, Kinect Sports Rivals launched in April to very little success. As such, the outlet has learned that Rare has been hit with a round of layoffs.
The company once famous for the glorious likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Viva Piñata and Donkey Kong Country, had been making Kinect games for Microsoft in recent years. Now? It looks like Phil Spencer, the newest head of the Xbox division, might push it in other directions.
Eurogamer received this statement from Microsoft when asking about the layoffs.
At Xbox, our goal is to constantly create new fun, social and interactive entertainment experiences. As part of Rare's commitment to this goal, we have made a decision to change our development process and methodology at Rare to best support our future projects, this has led to us reviewing the skills and the makeup of our development teams in our business.
Rare continues to invest in our people and future projects.
Changing development process and methodology? That sounds like a big, sweeping fix for the company, doesn't it?
Eurogamer pointed to an interview between Spencer and OXM as more fuel for discussion. Spencer suggested Kinect Sports Rivals was successful, commented on "forcing" them to make certain games and what they'll be doing next.
"[Rare has] just come off the successful launch of Kinect Sports Rivals…I think I've heard a few times from people asking about Rare – they're in the process of evaluating what they want to do next, and we're working closely with them to see what their new project will be.
…And I've also laughed when people have tried to use the word, what I 'force' them to do – if you're around any independent studio, or like Rare a studio that's independent-minded, you'll know that forcing a studio to do something is never a successful equation. So they're free to look at all different kinds of opportunities, they always have been, and we're having a great time trying to work out with them what their next game might be, but we have nothing to announce right now."
Speaking with my own interests in mind, I'd much rather see the Rare that made Nuts & Bolts and Viva Piñata for Microsoft than the one that's been making Kinect Sports. The company is better with crazy characters, mechanics and worlds, and I'd love to see it return to that side of game development.
Hopefully Microsoft is asking Rare to do just that.