From Sega Retro


Rare logo.png
Founded: 1982
Merged into: Microsoft (2002)
Twycross, Leicestershire, United Kingdom

Rare Ltd. is a video game development studio that was formed in England in 1982 by Chris and Tim Stamper, under the original name of Ultimate Play the Game. They made many classic games for the home computers of that era (primarily the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64) and were instrumental in the commercialization of the computer games industry via their pricing, packaging and advertising policies.


In 1985, the Stampers sold the Ultimate name to U.S. Gold (who produced all Ultimate games post-Gunfright) and began to develop for the Nintendo Entertainment System under the name of Rare Ltd. They produced an astounding 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). Wishing to avoid becoming 'just another' games development company, 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 Super Nintendo Entertainment System, games which stretched the industry's perceptions of the graphical capabilities of the SNES and put Rare on the triple-A map. Killer Instinct for the arcades used the same technology with similarly successful results. Killer Instinct went on to become the 'third choice' 2D fighting game of the era after Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.

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 Nintendo 64, which Rare supported with a string of high quality, high-selling games. GoldenEye 007 sold around 5 million copies worldwide, a statistic that suggests that Rare was now one of the world's premier developers, and need never feel financial pain again.

In September 2002, Rare was bought by Microsoft for an alleged $375 million, in an apparent attempt on the part of Microsoft to gain some credibility in first party development. Their first few games for Microsoft were not as well received as their previous games. However, when the Xbox 360 was released, Rare's success was starting up again, but it is still not as successful as in previous years. Microsoft still claims that Rare is their cornerstone development studio.