Last month, this post appeared on 4Chan.
Initially, I did not intend to create a topic based on this post. After all, it was 4Chan, therefore nobody believed it, not even I.
But then some things have happened earlier this month. Animators and artists who had been there for five years or more started to depart, including art director Steven Crow, concept artist Ryan Firchau (the guy who made the famous butcher ;D) and apparently even Chris Seavor who hadn't directed anything since the Kinect change (his last known project was PD Core in early 2008).
We already knew (by taking a look at the credits of Kinect Sports) that many veterans had left, but this seems to be the next wave. For Sports they contracted some former artists and animators, is that what they want to rely on entirely? One example: Dean Smith, at Rare since 1992, is only a contact artist as of this month.
I cannot say much about the truth of rest of that post up there, but is it only a coincidence that long-term staff either left this month or was contracted by Rare? Microsoft manager Scott Henson replaced Mark Betteridge as studio head of Rare Ltd.; he puts a remarkable emphasis on the importance of Kinect:
"Kinect will be a key part of the studio's future," he said. "I'm not suggesting it's going to be exclusive, but it will be the centrepiece of our strategy for sure, because there is a lot of opportunity there."
I could see Rare's future as concentrating on casual Avatar titles and hiring cheap graduates to produce assets for Avatars. They took quite a few steps into this direction by opening their new studio.
We'll have to see what will become of Rare. One thing for certain, they won't keep on prototyping without results anymore - that's what Microsoft had tried to change since 2009. What's more important, Microsoft needs to get an idea what they want to do with Rare: Obviously, they don't want them to work on titles for the hardcore crowd (PD or Banjo), as these departures and messages from former employees indicate. Then again, Rare worked on a fitness training game which was canned because Kinect was already flooded by them.
Rumour has it that there'll be more redundancies in March - who knows at this point...
What's next? Kinect Dance? Kinect Golf? I only expect something like Kinect Fashion where Avatars walk on a catwalk. Wouldn't mind a Kinectdogs though ;)