Rare is no longer the artisan studio that Microsoft purchased for $375 million back in 2002. Back then, the studio was known for ambitious, flawed, and deeply charming action games like Banjo Kazooie and Perfect Dark. While the Xbox 360 hosted a number of games in the classic Rare style, the studio has become a factory in the past four years, producing the nuts and bolts of Microsoft’s push into family markets like Kinect Sports and Xbox Avatars.
Like many in media though, Rare might be digging back into the ‘90s for new inspiration. Microsoft teased via PlayXBLA on Monday that it has renewed its trademark on Killer Instinct, Rare’s fighting series from the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 era.
“With all due respect to our friends in the media who like to frequent trademark sites, we thought we’d break this one ourselves. Our legal eagles have authorized us to say: ‘We have either renewed or re-filed a trademark application in various jurisdictions.’”
Microsoft was right to suspect that the filing would lead many to believe that work on the long dormant Killer Instinct series. Rare has hinted numerous times in recent years that it would like to return to the combo-heavy Skeleton versus Werewolf action from what is one of the only popular Western-developed fighting series ever. Back in 2007 while the sturdio was hard at work on another franchise reboot, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, it sent out a Christmas card with a stocking labeled “KI3.”
Back in 2010, Killer Instinct designer Ken Lobb, now Creative Director of Microsoft Game Studios, said he wanted to at least see the series make it to Xbox Live Arcade. “I obviously have personal feelings about Killer Instinct, but I do think it’s got a place,” he said at the X10 event, “Let’s bring back something that people loved in the past and see how it does on Live Arcade.” He even said that work had started on Killer Instinct 3 back in the ‘90s, but even if that work was reprised, Microsoft would need to gauge interest with a re-release.
Donnchadh Murphy, the 3D modeler that worked on the series, said this past August that Microsoft was not interested enough to pursue making the game. “We all wanted to make Killer Instinct 3, but Microsoft was more interested in broadening their demographic than making another fighting game. So it never got made, I doubt it ever will,” he told Not Enough Shaders.
Since the announcement was made via PlayXBLA, the good bet is an HD re-release of original games is in the cards. Going forward? Job listings suggest Rare is already busy working on a new adventure and a new shooter for Xbox 720. After that though, provided the HD remaster sells well, the future may be wide open for some new rounds of Fulgore against Orchid.