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Donkey Kong man taunts departed devs

Retro boss: "Look what you missed."

Donkey Kong Country Returns developer Retro Studios threw down a cheeky taunt today to key management figures who jumped ship to form their own studio after the release of Metroid Prime 3.

Discussing the disruptive depatures at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco today, studio chief Michael Kelbaugh said "It turned out to be a good thing. And if any of them are out there, look what you missed."

Prior to that, the game's Nintendo producer, Kensuke Tanabe, had explained how the famous franchise had been handed to Retro.

Kelbaugh had first discussed his affection for the Donkey Kong Country series with Tanabe back in 2004 while Retro was working on the Metroid Prime series, but it wasn't until 2008 that Nintendo considered giving them the reins.

"At that point in time Retro had been running a series of development experiments," Tanabe recalled.

"Right around then, there was an unfortunate thing happening at Retro. A few key members of the studio left the company to pursue other opportunities and sort of left the team unable to pursue the experiments they were working on any further."

The incident he is referring to saw art director Todd Keller, design director Mark Pacini and principal technology engineer Jack Matthews leave to set up Armature Studios.

"The obvious silver lining in this scenario is that it allowed Retro Studios to mobilise quickly and start working on Donkey Kong Country Returns," he continued.

"If those members hadn't left when they did and those experiments had moved forward then there's a chance that Donkey Kong Country Returns wouldn't have been able to go to Retro. So I feel an amazing sense of coincidence, of chance and of fate over how things worked out for everybody."

Following the split, Armature initially announced it was working on a multiplatform title for EA. However, a recruitment call posted on its site last April suggested the publisher has since backed out.

"We are staffing up for the initial stages of an exciting unannounced project with an excited unannounced publisher!" it read.

Meanwhile, Retro has had a great few months. Donkey Kong Country Returns has sold more than four million copies worldwide since it launched on Wii in December - success that's thoroughly deserved.

"This game has the potential to win over a whole new generation," wrote Eurogamer's Ellie Gibson in her 9/10 review, "and to do so without eliciting any whinges from those of us old enough to remember the taste of a McRib washed down with Tab Clear."

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.