Recently, some footage of GoldenEye allegedly running on the Xbox 360 surfaced online. This sent gamers into a tizzy trying to figure out if it was real or not and if the game was really planned to release on the 360. Well, Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer has finally chimed in on the matter.
What he's saying is not that the game that we've seen running in the video for about half an hour isn't real or wasn't actually capable of running on the Xbox 360, but that doing so was always about getting the rights, which is why GoldenEye wasn't included in Rare Replay. But who has the rights? Well, it's complicated. The 007 license bounces around to various publishers and has also bounced around to various studios.
At the time of release, Nintendo and Rare were able to make GoldenEye 007 for the N64. The game rights were obviously in Nintendo's wheelhouse since it was published by Nintendo and made exclusively for their console. However, the 007 property rights bounced around from one company to the next and at the time MGM owned the rights. The poor 'ole 007 franchise has been fought over throughout the years, with certain films and property rights being bid over and challenged in court more times than it's worth mentioning.
Even if Microsoft did manage to convince Nintendo to let them re-publish GoldenEye 007 on the Xbox consoles, they would likely still have to get the distribution rights from the property holders. It's the main reason why a lot of games based on licensed property are currently unavailable for digital purchase on home consoles and PC, like EA's 007 games and some of Activision's 007 games. Thankfully, you can still find some of the titles being sold from some places that still have the physical copies of the game.
In the case of GoldenEye appearing on the Xbox 360, Spencer doesn't necessarily say who is responsible for the rights hold-up, whether that's Nintendo or the current 007 rights holders. Sometimes these things can turn into a real mess and, unfortunately, a lot of games may not ever see the light of day again due to these legal issues surrounding the rights of the property, an issue that currently has the classic No One Lives Forever stuck in IP hell.
Now Phil Spencer's vague response regarding the GoldenEye footage doesn't necessitate that it's from a real version of the game. There's still the possibility that someone recreated the title with a brush up in textures and environmental improvements and plopped the video online.
With today's technology it's pretty easy to completely reconstruct old games using newer engines. Heck, some modders completely remade Perfect Dark 64 within Valve's Source Engine for Half-Life 2. It wouldn't be too far fetched to believe that some dedicated fans ripped or remade some assets and built their own version of GoldenEye for the Xbox 360. Given that the 360 is moddable and can run homebrew and emulation, it's certainly not outside the realm of possibility that the whole thing is a basement project.
While it would be cool to learn more about what exact hurdles are holding up the release of a GoldenEye on the Xbox consoles, it's likely that the whole thing will eventually fade back into the dark.