The developer Rare has created some of the best video-games I've played in my life. Their work litters my childhood memories on the SNES and more recent console generations as well. Yet claiming that the company is anywhere near as ambitious as they once were is a lie. Regardless of how much their games sell, I can't imagine they will survive much longer even with Microsoft's complete ownership.
Rare's most relevant history took place in 2002 and 2007. Microsoft purchased the British-based studio completely in 2002, then five years later the Stamper brothers left to pursue other interests. Recent games made prior to the original creators departure included some personal favorites of mine: Conker: Live & Reloaded and Viva Piñata. Likewise I have a deep hatred for Perfect Dark Zero and consider Kameo: Elements of Power to be generally boring.
The true spiral into lousiness seems to have taken full effect around the releases of Jetpac Refuelled and Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise. This glorified update to Viva Piñata is jam-packed with content, and many consider it to be the superior version. Yet as a technical sequel it was a gigantic disappointment when compared to the shock and awe factor the original game presented gamers which who were too quick to judge. Net even today there are no signs we will be getting a legitimate followup. Jetpac Refuelled's name speaks for itself; can anyone even remember it?
Last year's Kinect Sports signifies both Rare's new motion-based priority and long-time fans losing faith completely. They've expressed several times that the long rumored Killer Instinct 3 simply will not happen, and even an HD remastering of the first two games seems to be out of the question. Though not very true to the original series, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was brilliant on many levels and I wonder why they are being limited to entertaining the casual crowd. N&B proved they still have some talent left within the studio, now seemingly being completely wasted.
Granted the Rare of 2011 is not comprised of the same members that it originally held. Original members left periodically as time went on, a handful of them forming Free Radical Design (TimeSplitters) which was later consumed by Crytek. Microsoft also moved the studio in late 2010, pushing the focus towards motion games.
It may not have been entirely true in the past, but Microsoft's ownership seems to be much of the reasoning behind their lack of inspiration. It's like colonization: you can take over a group of people and tell them what to do and how to act, but they still have unique minds and thoughts working all at once. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Rare prefers working on XBLA ports and motion games- and has no recollection of the nearly perfect Donkey Kong Country series. But regardless of team members, ownership and location we can all agree that Rare has fallen to a sad degree. A shell of their former company, it's depressing watching them fell apart.