At the dawn of the Xbox era, Microsoft made an audacious attempt to acquire Nintendo, which was brushed off with boisterous laughter, according to a new account.
According to an in-depth oral history commemorating the 20th anniversary of the original Xbox, those who worked on the console told Bloomberg of a meeting that would shape the future of gaming.
Bob McBreen, Microsoft’s then head of business development said the company approached both EA and Nintendo over possible acquisitions as it looked to launch its own gaming empire. EA said: “No thanks,” he recalls. Nintendo had a different reaction.
Keven Bachus, the-then director of third-party relations, picks up the story: Steve [former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer] 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.”
Related: Best Xbox Series S/X games
McBreen goes onto say that Microsoft had envisioned a joint venture between the two companies as a response to the success of the original Sony PlayStation.
He adds: “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.”
Bloomberg’s intriguing report also reveals Microsoft tried to purchase gaming publishers and developers like Square (now Square Enix) and Midway Games of Mortal Kombat fame. Ultimately those efforts failed. Instead, Microsoft got Bungie. Which meant Microsoft got Halo. And the rest, as they say, is video games history.