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Here's Why The Xbox GoldenEye 007 Remaster Never Came Out

Over the years, classic gaming fans have probably wondered why GoldenEye 007, the influential James Bond-based Nintendo 64 shooter from Rare in its prime, never saw a re-release on later systems. After all, the game was well-received when it first came out: The Dallas Morning News' reviewer, then a high-schooler, said it had "the most enjoyable first-person gameplay ever." IGN called it a "truly masterful first-person gem." GameSpot thought that if more Nintendo games used GoldenEye 007 as a model, the N64 could be a PlayStation killer. 


For many, the game was a revelation: instructional in how good licensed games could be, but also creative and innovative in its own right. And, according to CNet, it was developed by a team of nine people, eight of which had never made a game before!

Yet despite its accolades, GoldenEye 007 remains one of the great titles from history that never got a remastered rerelease, which would have brought its gameplay to newer systems and introduced it to additional generations of gamers. There was a 2010 "complete reimagining" of GoldenEye 007 featuring Daniel Craig as Bond, but a true remaster of the classic game never happened. Here's why.

The Xbox 360 nearly got a remaster

Over the years, information has leaked out about attempts to remaster GoldenEye 007 for the Xbox 360 in 2007 and 2008. The remake was apparently canceled just months before it was to release with converted graphics and an online multiplayer mode.


Then, in 2016, a full half-hour of footage from the canned GoldenEye 007 remaster for Xbox Live Arcade was posted to YouTube by Rare Thief, displaying what could have been both in campaign and multiplayer modes. The footage showed that the original structure of the game was retained, but it also featured redrawn textures, better graphics and 60 frames per second.

In 2019, even more information was released. Leaked data files from this dump included two documentary videos with members of the original development team, one of which appears to be from around 2014. The leak also included 30 more minutes of B-roll gameplay from the Xbox 360 version, showing off the port's ability to swap between the original N64 textures and higher-resolution versions, allowing for maximum nostalgia.


It all comes down to the rights, naturally

While its unclear exactly which of the multiple parties involved were responsible for the remaster's cancellation in 2007-2008, it's likely that the IP's ownership issues and licensing considerations probably did the game in. 


Activision, for example, held the rights to develop and publish games in the James Bond franchise after 2006. Rare, as the developer of the original game, also had to be involved. Microsoft, which now owns Rare and wanted to publish the game, and Nintendo, which had published the original game, were also players that had to be part of the negotiations.

Unseen 64 reports that Nintendo, Microsoft, and Activision agreed to a licensing deal, but Nintendo Japan apparently refused to grant permission at the last minute. Meanwhile, Xbox head Phil Spencer seems to have made the only pertinent comment regarding the whole situation, when in 2015 he replied to a tweet asking about the game. 

"GoldenEye rights are so challenging, looked at this many times. Lot's of different parties to work with, we've always given up," Spencer said.


Given these difficulties, it's not surprising that the remastered GoldenEye 007 never came out.