Nintendo is breathing new life into Banjo-Kazooie and there’s a reason for that.

The budding relationship between Microsoft and Nintendo is no secret. If it wasn’t obvious by titles like Minecraft and Cuphead releasing on Switch, it was made abundantly clear when Banjo-Kazooie was confirmed for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. That latter point is very important to note for fans of the Rare-owned franchise because the backbone of Banjo-Kazooie‘s resurgence now falls on Nintendo. After being left by the wayside for 11 years following the lacklustre reception and sales of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, the bear and bird are finally mounting a comeback with Nintendo at the helm.

Nintendo’s smashing Banjo resurrection

Smashing Strategy

There’s a reason that Microsoft was so cooperative in allowing Nintendo to license Banjo-Kazooie for Smash Bros. Ultimate. Xbox head Phil Spencer has to recognize that followers of the property are largely Nintendo fans, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The series had its heyday on the Nintendo 64, quickly cementing itself as an iconic 3D platforming game. Because of this, gamers draw an immediate connection to Banjo and Nintendo. It’s also why fans wanted the character to appear in Smash Bros. so badly, as Banjo’s omission had always felt odd given his legacy with the company.

So what does licensing Banjo-Kazooie to Nintendo afford Xbox? Well, it’s not just the ease of allowing another company to resurrect the property for them. There are internal resources at Microsoft committed to the revival, as Rare head Craig Duncan confirmed that the team is overseeing and assisting Nintendo in the development. This is to be expected in order to assure that its IP is represented properly. Fortunately, this is also a very positive sign for the future of the franchise since such care is being given to its crossover appearance.

It would be easy to look at the 14 million+ copies sold of Smash Ultimate and assume that was an incentive for Microsoft to add Banjo-Kazooie, but that’s not the case. Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai confirmed that Nintendo had already selected the final DLC ahead of Ultimate‘s launch via Twitter. This means that the sale figures didn’t exist for Microsoft to see, although it was likely forecasted that the title would perform well. So what is the real reason?

Nintendo is where the fan base lies

Homecoming

The bulk of fans’ passion for Banjo-Kazooie surely emanates from the memories Nintendo 64 owners had playing the original titles. It’s that same type of nostalgic link that has led to titles like Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy selling 10 million units after debuting as a PlayStation 4 timed-exclusive. As such, Microsoft would be wise to consider bringing more Banjo-Kazooie to Nintendo Switch, perhaps a remake of the original? Matt Booty, head of Xbox Game Studios, recently made it clear he would be open to the idea of their games appearing on rival consoles.

Regardless of what platforms are chosen for a hypothetical next Banjo-Kazooie game, Nintendo has to be at the forefront of the discussion. It’s the logical next step. Consumers that have just finished clobbering Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog with this bear wearing a backpack in Smash Bros. Ultimate may want to explore the character further. It’s a natural extension of the mascot’s inclusion and a clear path to revenue for Microsoft.

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Riley's Take

Author

Banjo-Kazooie is near and dear to my heart, so it’s great to see the property being made relevant again through Smash Bros. Ultimate. Still, gamers understandably want more. I know that it’s easy to look at the success Activision has had with remakes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro and think that the same can happen with Rare’s IP. In fact, these nostalgic plays have been so successful that Activision is now actively looking at older franchises to remaster.

As we know though, the series’ original developer, Rare, is focused on expanding Sea of Thieves and developing a brand-new game (via WindowsCentral). Even if the plan is to remaster/remake the original two games, the right developer needs to come along to take the reins of the franchise. Ideally, not only for one project but also in a longterm capacity.

Could Nintendo license or buy the IP from Microsoft and Rare? Surely, but likely that won’t happen. While Nintendo was willing to license Banjo-Kazooie for Smash Ultimate, the company has its own franchises to focus on. Even beloved Nintendo-owned properties like F-Zero and Earthbound have long had fanbases pleading for new entries. The simple truth is that Nintendo has its hands full.

Having said that, it’s clear that the most passionate members of the audience reside on Nintendo platforms. If there’s value in that to Xbox and Rare, the future of the franchise lies with Nintendo.