Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Says Banjo In Smash Was An Easy Deal To Make

Xbox Boss Phil Spencer Says Banjo In Smash Was An Easy Deal To Make

Nintendo’s penultimate E3 announcement today involved the addition of a Microsoft-owned character to Smash Bros. This kind of company crossover between two platform holders might seem extraordinary, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that it was actually a pretty easy deal.

“The ‘how’ is not actually that interesting,” Spencer told me when I asked him how adding Banjo-Kazooie to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came about.

“Obviously we’re one of the biggest third-party publishers on Switch, so we have great relationships with their third-party team. And you’ve seen the ambition they’ve had with every character that’s ever been in Smash and even more. So it was just kind of part of the partnership relationship we have with them.”

“There wasn’t anything kind of CEO-to-CEO that had to happen,” he said. “People have asked me on social [media]—I’m sure you’ve seen that—over many years: ‘Would I welcome having Banjo in Smash?’ and I’ve always been open to that.”

Obviously we’re not talking about Halo’s Master Chief here. The bear-bird combo of Banjo and Kazooie debuted in games on the Nintendo 64 that were developed by Rare back when Nintendo had a significant ownership stake in the studio. Microsoft bought Rare in 2002 and published Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in 2008 as well as a compilation of classic Rare games, including remakes of the first two Banjo games, in 2015.

Spencer noted that Microsoft has worked with Nintendo for a long time, publishing games on 3DS and Switch, and letting classic Rare games like the Donkey Kong Country series show up on Nintendo back-catalogue services. “The licensing relationships between the two companies, they’re there and are kind of ongoing,” he said.

“The reason it’s not some interesting, deep conversation is because with us owning Rare and the history between those two things, there are a lot of conversations over the years about, ‘Hey, we want to do “X” is that ok?’”

“I think it’s cool that Banjo is going to be in Smash,” he added.

And this morning, Rare tweeted this:


  • and letting classic Rare games like the Donkey Kong Country series show up on Nintendo back-catalogue services.

    Microsoft didn’t “allow” the DKC games on the VC or SNES mini. While those games were originally developed by Rare, Microsoft doesn’t own those. Nintendo still owns the Donkey Kong IP. They can (and have) still make new DKC games using characters even Rare originally created. They don’t need Microsoft’s permission to make games based on IP they already own.

    If anything MS has a history of not allowing stuff. If you go back to the Wii and Wii U VC, the only Rare-developed N64 game we ever had was DK64, because Nintendo owns that IP. We didn’t see Perfect Dark, or Banjo-Kazooie, or anything else Rare made on the N64, because MS now owns those IPs. Even when Diddy Kong Racing was ported to the DS, they actually needed to remove a character who was in the N64 original – Banjo – because MS owned him.

    While it’s true Rare-made games have made appearances on Nintendo handhelds since the MS acquisition, it’s only relatively recently where the two companies have started working more closely with each other (such as the crossplay stuff).

    • You missed the point, Rare (and by extension, Microsoft) owns the games it created with Nintendo’s IP.

      Nintendo owns the IP, Rare owns the game.

        • I stated this wrong (I’ll wear that).

          Rare still receives royalties from the Donkey Kong games it developed. Rare obviously doesn’t own any IP associated with the games (and I specifically called out they didn’t).

          • That link above specifically says Rare does not own the DK games and never did. Nintendo owns the IP *AND* the games. They don’t need Microsoft’s permission to re-release any of the original DKC games or DK64. Rare/Microsoft does not receive any royalities from them. MS acquired the other properties Rare developed, such as Banjo and Conker, but not DK or the DK games, because Rare never owned the DK games.

            Kinda related, amusingly, when MS first acquired Rare, some execs also thought they acquired DK haha.

          • That’s DK64. I know at least one of the snes DKC, and Diddy Kong Racing falls outside of this. Its why DKC for DS removed Conker & Banjo, even though they both originally appeared in DKR before having their own games.

          • Diddy Kong Racing was a different story. Nintendo actually does still own that game too – they ported it to the DS, but when they ported it, they needed to remove characters that were in the original game that were now owned by MS, such as Banjo. Nintendo still owned the DKR game, but they no longer owned the IP for Banjo, so they needed to remove him from the DS port.

            I even mentioned the DKR situation in my original post above.

      • That’s not how this works at all.

        If my production company made a Marvel movie, then got hired by DC, DC doesn’t suddenly own the Marvel movie.

    • I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was MS that approached Nintendo about putting BK into Smash and not the other way around. Smash didn’t need BK to be successful, and it’s no secret MS are kinda struggling at the moment with the Xbox stuff.

  • Get ready everyone Banjo and Kazooie is finally come home to be on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate thanks to this easy deal from head of Xbox boss Phil Spencer.
    Phil Spencer’s plan to bring Banjo and Kazooie back home is 110% confirmed.
    And it’s all thanks to that tweet from British developer Rare who said we wanted Banjo and Kazooie in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and they listened.
    Thanks for sending us that Rare god bless you guys and same to you Phil Spencer.
    Banjo and Kazooie will be ready as our third DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in Spring later this year.
    I’m excited and I can’t wait to play as Banjo and Kazooie and the new fighting stage Spiral Mountain from the original Nintendo 64 game 20 years ago I’ve already bought my Fighter’s Pass and I’m absolutely ready to play as Banjo and Kazooie when he gets launched in Spring later this year.

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