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It’s Time for a New Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie represents everything great about the golden age of Nintendo. Except for one thing: it’s owned by Microsoft.

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Everything about the bear and bird’s original 1998 adventure has Nintendo DNA in it. From the graphics to the sound to the gameplay, it is a first-party N64 game through and through.

But it’s not 1998 anymore. Just like Banjo pushed on from Mario 64 back in the day, a top-quality Mario clone on Game Pass would need to build on what Nintendo does best today. That’s not as big a task as perhaps you’d think.

In the way that Immortals Fenyx Rising built on the Nintendo equation for Breath of the Wild, Banjo-Kazooie could build on the Nintendo equation for Mario.

It can’t be Yooka-Laylee – a top-quality throwback that lovingly builds on what was popular 20 years ago. It needs to revolutionise the genre.

Easy right?

Last of the Collectathons

“Just go and make a Mario,” he says, typing away without any need to put effort into making it happen. It’s easy to say, much harder to do.

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It wouldn’t be simple to make happen. It wouldn’t be quick and it wouldn’t be cheap. But there are developers out there that can make it happen, and the benefits would be endless.

Nobody is seriously doubting that Microsoft can make a playable Halo or Gears game. Nobody doubts that the next Fallout and Forza will be incredible games, and that they’ll bring value to Gamepass. But all these games – and everything Microsoft currently offers really – is for the hardcore. They’re titles that will appeal to those that already love gaming.

There is a shameful lack of titles that pull children into gaming today outside of Nintendo. That’s especially true when you discount Minecraft, Fortnite and Call of Duty.

Nintendo owns this entire segment of the industry. The bulk of Nintendo’s output is family-friendly, and it’s about the main thing that keeps them afloat.

Sony does little to compete. They have Sackboy and Ratchet and Clank, and Astrobot looks set to become a decent replacement. Two or three low-key titles a generation do not make for a family-friendly offering.

Microsoft has nothing even approaching Sony’s meager efforts, and it’s a really obvious gap in their increasingly impressive portfolio.

The obvious thing to do would be to buy up more IP. SEGA is the obvious solution to that problem, but it requires both a willing buyer and a willing seller.

But that’s ignoring the IP that Microsoft already have. Viva Pinata, Sea of Thieves, and, yes, Banjo-Kazooie are all games that could promote Xbox as a place for families.

The Game Pass Problem

Netflix didn’t become a household name by only releasing films adults would enjoy. Disney stopped being a Kid-only venture before most of use were alive.

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This doesn’t seem like a major problem today, but it absolutely will become one in the future. While it’s just a “gaming service”, an extra option to bring people into the Xbox ecosystem, today’s offerings are more than generous. But that doesn’t get you to 100m subscribers.

People are far more likely to subscribe to something like Game Pass if their kids get as much entertainment as they do.

A top tier Banjo-Kazooie title this generation – whether made by Rare or not – would go some way to fixing that gap.

Remember, Nintendo isn’t releasing ten games a year. They’re not even releasing five games a year. They release maybe four or five GOAT family games in one generation – a Mario, a Super Smash, a Mario Kart and sometimes a Zelda. Everything else is niche, smaller scale or smaller selling. Add in Animal Crossing as the behemoth that it is today and you’ve got six must-play games across seven or eight years.

That’s not a knock at Nintendo. They make it work wonders for them, and that’s who Microsoft need to beat if they want that chunk of the market to stop wanting a switch and start wanting an Xbox.

It’s Time for a New Banjo-Kazooie – Conclusion

That’s not going to happen overnight and it’s probably not going to happen over a single generation. But that needs to be part of something Xbox starts moving towards, and Banjo-Kazooie is at the heart of the solution.

That doesn’t mean pulling Rare away from what they want to work on. It doesn’t even mean making a brand new studio from the ground up. It means putting the IP with someone safe and paying to make it work.

This is one of the biggest hurdles facing the Game Pass method, and it’s about the only one Microsoft haven’t publically found a solution for.

 

Article By

blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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