Rare has been tied to a single company's consoles for more than a decade, but almost saw freedom in 2002.
Rare, the studio behind the original GoldenEye 007 and the upcoming Kinect Sports, went from working exclusively with one first-party to another when Microsoft purchased Nintendo's stake in the company back in 2002. Previous vice president of game publishing at Microsoft Ed Fries recently revealed the details behind this deal, including how Rare was almost bought by Activision.
Microsoft paid a pretty penny when it bought Rare, to the tune of $375 million. This number may have shot so high due to competition from Activision and strategy by Nintendo. Though some have said that Nintendo dumped Rare and sold the studio to Microsoft, Nintendo actually did express its own interest in purchasing Rare.
Fries says that Nintendo owned nearly half of Rare, and had the option to purchase the other half. Nintendo kept letting the deadline for the purchase expire, which allowed other bidders to come in. the problem was, if another company put in a low bid Nintendo would be able to match it with priority. Microsoft and Activision put in big bids to ensure that Nintendo wouldn't match them. This, in addition to competition from Activision, were the primary factors that led to the giant bid of $375 million.
Despite the giant dollar signs Microsoft flashed in front of Rare, Activision's offer was more intriguing. Fries says that Activision won the bidding war for Rare at first because "[Rare] wanted to be third-party, independent of all platforms." However, something mysterious happened and the deal with Activision fell through.
"Something happened between them and Activision," Fries said in an interview with Develop. "I don't know what it was, but relatively far along in the deal things got cold, and we made a counter offer ... The prices were getting so high, by this point, that it didn't look like Nintendo was willing to participate."
Activision backed out, and Microsoft won the day, if you consider spending $375 million for Rare a win. Rare may have faltered in recent years with disappointing titles like Perfect Dark Zero, but is set to win back some of the prominence it gained in the N64 era when Kinect launches if Kinect Sports becomes a success. I wonder how differently things would have gone for Rare, whose founders left in 2007, if it was now under the umbrella of Activision instead of Microsoft.