How Microsoft Tried to Buy Nintendo, and Why It Didn't Happen
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How Microsoft Tried to Buy Nintendo, and Why It Didn’t Happen

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BY January 7, 2021

The world of video games, at the end of the day, isn’t dissimilar to other industries. The business world thrives on mergers, acquisitions, and all sorts of deals. That means a lot of companies end up blending into one another. We see it happen with companies like Square, who produced the Final Fantasy series, and Enix, who produced the Dragon Quest series. In 2003, the two competitors merged and created a better company thanks to shared resources. Overall, this happens all the time with smaller studios. If you have a bigger studio try to buy an even bigger studio, then what happens? A new oral history that is making headlines talks about how Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo and why it never happened.

Microsoft Tried to Buy Nintendo?

microsoft tried to buy nintendo Image Credit: Microsoft

An incredible story from Bloomberg is highlighting some interesting points in the history of Microsoft’s gaming endeavors. Most notably, Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo at one point in the 2000s. Here’s what happened. If you remember the OG Xbox, then you’ll recall it was a disaster. The project cost more than projected, it nearly missed every deadline and didn’t debut quite as well as hoped. It’s honestly crazy to think that just two decades later you can’t find a single Xbox console on shelves.

So Microsoft, having the money it has, decided it might help their case to buy up some gaming studios and publishers. Sound familiar, hint-hint last year’s Bethesda acquisition. According to Kevin Bachus, former director of third-party relations, one of those companies approached about an acquisition was Nintendo. Yes, Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo. As you can imagine, it didn’t go all that well. In Bachus’ words, “imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.”

It doesn’t take much to break apart Nintendo’s reasoning for refusing a sale. Nintendo is still the most well-known gaming company in the world. They are also incredibly protective over their IPs and internal operations. According to the Bloomberg article, Microsoft even asked to publish some Nintendo games on Xbox consoles. This too was denied, as Nintendo does everything on their consoles and does things their way. It’s interesting to see such a response documented, especially given Nintendo and Microsoft’s recent comradery.

The Merger That Never Was Left Both Companies in Better Shape

The History of Super Mario Image Credit: Nintendo

Lately, Nintendo and Microsoft have essentially developed a relationship that benefits both companies. Xbox Game Studios games can go to the eShop with both companies’ permission. We see Cuphead and the Ori games on the Nintendo Switch because of this. They also both adopted cross-play efforts with each other’s ecosystem of consoles much earlier than Sony did. Nintendo games don’t show up on Xbox, but that’s okay. Eventually, it seems like the goal is to simply allow space for Xbox Game Studio titles that can run on the Switch an additional home. It’s not a bad deal for either company.

Still, one can only wonder what might have happened if Microsoft acquired Nintendo. There’s something to be said about Nintendo’s work culture and corporate decision making. While it’s often anti-consumer and highly strict in its treatment of its IP, it also has a rabid fanbase. There’s no denying that even the most frustrated Nintendo fan is still invested in the company’s games. Xbox, on the other hand, is changing its tune thanks to services like Xbox Game Pass. If a Game Pass experience for Nintendo games could have come from this deal decades ago, then who knows if Sony would have found success as it did.

What sort of thoughts did you have after hearing Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo? Let us know in the comments!

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Taylor loves to play video games in his spare time. He has two degrees in Political Communication and wrote his thesis on Marxism and the exploitation of college athletes. In his spare time, he loves spending time with his wife and two Toy Australian Shepherds. He’s always got headphones in, and he’s a diehard Cubs fan.


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