As recent years have shown in the gaming industry, there’s a lot to say about buying existing brands, companies and teams to go and make titles for you. In recent years we’ve seen all three major brands go and acquire teams to shore up their rosters and make sure they always have things in the works. But in a special interview with Bloomberg, it was revealed that Microsoft wanted to go and do this on a grand scale by buying out Nintendo.
Kevin Bachus, the former director of third-party relations at Microsoft, noted that this was to happen before the creation of the Xbox. But as good as Microsofts intentions were…it didn’t go well, him and Bob McBreen had this to say on the matter:
BOB MCBREEN: (head of business development) The first company we reached out to buy was EA. They said, “No, thanks,” and then Nintendo.
BACHUS: Steve [Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO] made us go meet with Nintendo to see if they would consider being acquired. They just laughed their asses off. Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.
You might wonder what was the “end goal” of this potential relationship between Microsoft and Nintendo. The answer was that Microsoft would handle the hardware side of things, and Nintendo would do the software side. Which at the time was the main reason they were approaching them:
MCBREEN: We actually had Nintendo in our building in January 2000 to work through the details of a joint venture where we gave them all the technical specs of the Xbox. The pitch was their hardware stunk, and compared to Sony PlayStation, it did. So the idea was, “Listen, you’re much better at the game portions of it with Mario and all that stuff. Why don’t you let us take care of the hardware?” But it didn’t work out.
BALLMER: I remember loving their content.
The irony of this is many-fold. Because the Xbox was a success, as was the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One to varying degrees. The Nintendo Gamecube is now looked back at fondly but also was the definitive “loser” of that genre. Fast forward to now and the Nintendo Switch is dominating marketplaces because of its all-star gaming lineup and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is only doing ok despite it having superior hardware.
Was it fair for Nintendo to laugh Microsoft out of the room? Probably not. But hey…it likely made sense for them to do it at the time because Microsoft had no true gaming experience themselves before that point while Nintendo was hardly struggling.