There has been a lot of talk from Microsoft, particularly Phil Spencer, recently about how they want to build up the Xbox’s line-up of exclusives; Spencer has specifically mentioned Nintendo as an example of what they’re hoping to eventually be like. I think this is a fantastic direction for Microsoft to go in; the reason Nintendo has lasted so long is because of the amount of classic series they have and keep bringing to gamers. If Microsoft wants the Xbox to live as long as Nintendo they’ll need some more iconic franchises. Microsoft has already started down this path by investing in new IPs like ReCore, Sea of Thieves and Scalebound; however, Microsoft also has a decent sized library of IPs they can go back to and revive to make the Xbox stand out even more.
One of the most demanded series for Microsoft to revive is the Banjo-Kazooie franchise. Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel, Banjo-Tooie, were 3D platformers made by Rare for the Nintendo 64. The two games were easily some of the most popular games on the system and many consider them to be games in their genre, so it’s pretty clear why people want to see the series return. Microsoft gained ownership of the franchise in the early 2000s when they purchased Rare. All we’ve seen from the series since then is 2008’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, a good game that’s highly controversial because of its change in genre/gameplay from the first two games. Ever since then it’s been all quiet for Banjo besides all three games appearing in Rare Replay.
The 3D platformer genre was the most dominant genre in the N64/PlayStation generation, it got to the point where the genre was over saturated by the latter half of the Xbox/PlayStation 2 generation. Banjo may have helped with the genre’s death as many of these games tried to replicate Banjo‘s success; some succeeded, while many others failed. The genre has been mostly dead ever since, even Nintendo has seemingly abandoned it with their last big 3D platformer being 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2. However, there has been a recent resurgence in interest in the genre with many Kickstarters being funded for games in the genre; this includes the Banjo spiritual successor, Yooka-Laylee. Yooka-Laylee is being made by devs who worked on the original Banjo games, the game was funded mainly because of its connection to Banjo.
If these recent developments aren’t a sign to Microsoft that they should revive Banjo, then I don’t know what is. Yooka-Laylee‘s successful fundraiser clearly shows that people are hungry for a Banjo game. Meanwhile, there’s very little competition in the 3D platformer genre right now outside of the kickstarted indie games. If Microsoft were to release a new AAA Banjo game, they’d essentially have the whole market to theirselves. If Microsoft were to market the game wisely, they could have a huge hit on their hands as well as a new series that they could regularly make games for.
Now how would Microsoft go about reviving this classic franchise? Series creator, Rare, is currently busy working on Sea of Thieves and it doesn’t seem like they’re interested in making any sequels right now. So Microsoft go hunting for a studio that is passionate about the Banjo series and is up to the task of a reviving a gaming legend; they did this with Killer Instinct and it worked better than any could have hoped for. Now this new team should try to differentiate the game from all of the new indie 3D platforners; the indie games are a bit small in-scale much like the original N64 games, so the new Banjo game should go big. It should have multiple worlds that are huge and have tons of stuff to do in them, as well as having a fun/unique way to quickly traverse the maps.
The developers should also try to get some of the old writers from past games so that the series’s sense of humor is left in-tact, the humor is one of the series’s trademarks and the games would lose a huge chunk of personality if the humor wasn’t there. Hopefully they’d be able to convince series composer, Grant Kirkhope, to come back; he’s previously stated he’d do another Banjo in a heartbeat, but that may have changed now that he’s composing Yooka-Laylee. The music in the Banjo series is some of gaming’s best and it just wouldn’t be a Banjo game without Kirkhope’s music.
Making Banjo-Kazooie an Xbox staple would probably be the best choice for truly following in Nintendo’s footsteps. Not only because the series used to be a part of Nintendo, but because it has the potential to be Xbox’s version of Mario. The series could be used to show a more kid friendly side of the Xbox One, however it’d be a kid friendly side that still appeals to adults much like Nintendo’s franchises. The series could also be used for a plethora of spin-offs like Mario. You’d have the main 3D platformer games, which could come out every couple of years, but then there could be spin-offs that could fill-in the gaps. The series’s quirky sense of humor easily leads itself towards goofy spin-offs like a Kart racing game, sports game or a Mario Party style game. Microsoft/developers could even try out new ideas with the series much like Nuts and Bolts; I personally feel that Nuts and Bolts would have been much more well-received if it was marketed as a spin-off and released shortly before/after a new main series game.
Banjo-Kazooie is one of gaming’s most revered series. Microsoft’s misuse of the series is easily one of their biggest mistakes in the world of gaming, but with the new direction the company is heading I think they can fix that. Reviving the series and pushing it as one of the Xbox’s biggest series would be a big step in helping the Xbox’s image. The original Banjo-Kazooie turns 20 years old in 2018, perhaps Microsoft already has a surprise revival planned for then? One can hope!