ConkerSource: Microsoft

Microsoft has the skeletons of a squirrel, bear, and red-crested breegull hidden away in its closet. And it's now time to bring those long-forgotten legends back to life.

Thanks to the Activision-Blizzard acquisition, Microsoft has a host of new properties under its belt, including two very, very beloved platforming icons: Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Activision hadn't been treating these two industry veterans with their due respect until very recently with a slate of remasters and, in Crash's case, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time. Microsoft, since its purchase, has said it's not going to make the same mistake.

However, as history shows us, Microsoft doesn't have the greatest track record. In fact, the last acquisition that netted it two platforming icons resulted in both meeting untimely demises. Conker the Squirrel and Banjo-Kazooie never got the respect they deserved from the house of Halo. But therein lies the silver lining: With Crash and Spyro under its belt, the Xbox brand has a chance to change its tune and show its love for platformers. It can avenge the fallen, avoid repeating missteps, and usher in a new era for the entire genre.

Where there's a will, there's a way

Ori and the Will of the WispsSource: Microsoft

Let's get this out of the way: When Microsoft wants to fund a top-tier platforming experience, it can. Just look at Ori and the Blind Forest and its sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Sure, that series wasn't made in-house, but it was published by Microsoft. And it was magnificent. Both games were masterful platformers that brought joy, whimsy, and heart to Microsoft's games lineup, a lineup otherwise dominated by hot cars and buff military guys. The Ori games are proof that when the Xbox brand is in need of some diversity, it can happen.

Since Microsoft has vocally acknowledged the existence of Spyro since the Activision-Blizzard acquisition announcement, one can logically assume platformers are on the Xbox team's mind. If that team seriously commits and makes new Crash and Spyro content, and said content is well-received, then what's to stop Microsoft from avenging its own fallen soldiers, Conker and Banjo?

For context: Conker was the star of a cult platformer entitled Conker's Bad Fur Day. It was a crass spin on the typical platformer, featuring toilet humor, adult humor, and just about everything that doesn't quite fly in the genre. While it didn't sell at the time, it's frequently named among Microsoft's forgotten franchises. Banjo-Kazooie, meanwhile, was one of the original collect-a-thon platformers — one of the few that knew how to make trekking around and gathering things genuinely fun.

A Rare opportunity

BanjoSource: Nintendo

Microsoft gathered Conker and Banjo-Kazooie back in 2002 when it bought Rare Ltd., a company famous for its platformers. However, Redmond swept Conker under the rug, put Banjo-Kazooie in a car-building game (which threw longtime series fans for a loop and signaled the end of Banjo-Kazooie), and sent Rare to go toil away on Kinect-geared experiences. Needless to say, for fans of Rare's legacy, it was a dark time.

But then Rare got a bit more freedom. Microsoft loosened the leash and gave the team the ability to craft Sea of Thieves, a project that went from zero to hero before consumers' very eyes. The game continues to enjoy a healthy player base with more content slated for 2022.

The original Rare folks who made Conker and Banjo probably aren't anywhere near the company these days, but the spirit of the brand — the one that fostered such platforming titans in the first place — is hopefully still there. If it is, and Rare has successfully maintained a staff that carries the developer's unique DNA, then there are zero reasons that Banjo and Conker can't have proper, healthy revivals. Especially since Banjo-Kazooie just had their bear-bird duo public profile raised thanks to a playable appearance in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Spiritual successors like Yooka-Laylee just aren't cutting it; the good people of the world need the real thing.

The power of platformers

Crash Bandicoot 4 ImageSource: Activision

Microsoft's all in on the best Xbox Game Pass games and has acquired numerous studios to build a portfolio capable of rivaling Nintendo's and Sony's. It has killer racing games like Forza Horizon 5, popular shooters like Halo Infinite, and fighting titles that need more love (Killer Instinct). But there's a dearth of in-house AAA platformers. All the cool kids have 'em except Xbox. Sony has Ratchet and Clank. Nintendo has Mario. Sega has Sonic. Microsoft has... a big hole in its x-shaped heart, one that's in need of filling.

Ori, Psychonauts 2, and those sorts of titles are pleasant surprises rather than guarantees for Xbox's publishing slate. But if Microsoft commits to Crash and Spyro the same way it commits to Halo and Forza, the sky's the limit. Once Xbox fans are reminded of how badass platformers are, then the brand can start going for the forgotten gems and unearth the real powerhouse players that'll bring Game Pass subscriptions to the next level: A bear and bird who collect puzzle pieces and a sh*t-talking squirrel who fights sentient poop monsters.