You might’ve seen that GoldenEye 007 has been back in the news lately. We’ve known for a long time that Rare planned an Xbox Live Arcade remake of the acclaimed shooter and, courtesy of Youtuber Graslu00, last week gave us a full look at what that could’ve brought.
It’s led to a bit of a blame game, with some fans believing that it was Nintendo which caused the remake’s cancellation, being the N64 version’s original publisher (a fact perhaps not helped by Graslu00’s video opening with “Do you expect me to remove this Nintendo logo screen? No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die”).
Since that “longplay” video released last week, Graslu00 has been accused of misunderstanding this situation, leading them to release a statement. The truth of the matter is this. Nintendo isn’t really to blame here – though it may have played a part in why it never released.
GoldenEye 007 was – and remains – locked in a complicated rights situation, one that several ex-Rare developers have shed a light on over the years. Nick Burton, a former senior software engineer at the studio, talked about this the legal issues preventing a release back in 2008, advising:
That was a tricky one. To be fair, I kind of wished that the differences got sorted out, but obviously there’s the licensing issue for Bond, even if it’s something that’s already come out. It’s incredibly hard to solve because there’s so many license holders involved. You’ve got the guys that own the license to the gaming rights now, the guys that have the license to Bond as an IP, and there are umpteen licensees.
Back in 2007, when Rare was planning the XBLA remake, GoldenEye’s rights were split in several directions. Whilst Nintendo previously published it, Rare had been bought out by Microsoft and the James Bond IP was (at that point) in Activision’s hands, which bizarrely ended up releasing its own GoldenEye 007 game for Wii in 2010.
It’s a situation also not helped by the Bond licence holders, MGM and Eon Productions, who handle the film series based on Ian Fleming’s literary super-spy. Speaking with MundoRare over a decade ago for an interview, game designer Duncan Botwood confirmed:
Licences are, by nature, highly restrictive agreements, and while GoldenEye 007 slipped past under the radar of the licence holders, the success of our game meant that subsequent games have been less fortunate, and probably less free from that kind of oversight in their development than those teams would have liked.
All things considered, there’s certainly a possibility that Nintendo could have played a role in blocking its release. No matter how you look at this though, it seems highly unlikely it had the final say in the matter; the situation is clearly a lot more complex than that.