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January 3, 2007

Founders leave Microsoft’s Rare game design studio

Posted by David Hunter at 2:17 PM ET.

Chris and Tim Stamper have left Microsoft’s Rare Ltd. game design studio:

Chris and Tim Stamper, two of Rare Ltd.’s three founders have left the studio. While the news surfaces in the wake of disappointing sales figures for Rare’s excellent Viva Pinata, Microsoft told 1UP that sluggish Pinata sales had “absolutely” nothing to do with their departure.

“Chris and Tim have helped shape Rare into the world-renowned development studio that is it today and their impact on the videogame industry as a whole is well known. They are simply leaving to pursue other opportunities and we wish them luck in their future endeavors.”

Microsoft acquired Rare 4 years ago from Nintendo. While I don’t think much of the TV show and merchandise part of the Viva Pinata goat rodeo, the game itself has been getting good reviews, but apparently failed in its mission to broaden the Xbox 360 demographic to a “family gaming” audience. Simon Carless at GameSetWatch suggest some reasons why sales have been so dismal, one of which has particular pertinence here:

Sorry, Rare, but your reputation among a lot of the hardcore gamers who currently own an Xbox 360 just isn’t that good. Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo were both flawed attempts at X360 launch titles that probably got overrated by the press along the way, further disenchanting people who picked them up at hardware launch. And the Conker update felt pretty underwhelming – so I think that a family-oriented game done by the current Rare team just didn’t appeal to a lot of people.

Game design is like movie production with a lot of duds for every blockbuster and constant shifting of the players in pursuit of the latter, so this isn’t a big surprise. Overall it doesn’t mean much for Microsoft other than once again raising the question of why they’re in this business in the first place.

Update: Todd Bishop reports that the new Studio Director is Mark Betteridge and the new Creative Director is Gregg Mayles.

Filed under Acquisitions, Microsoft, Xbox

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