Microsoft Xbox Chief Phil Spencer Wanted to Buy Nintendo in 2020

Michael McWhertor, reporting for Polygon on what I consider the most eye-catching of the revelations from Microsoft’s botched document upload to the FTC:

But Xbox head Phil Spencer said in 2020 — a month before Microsoft announced its plan to acquire ZeniMax and subsidiary Bethesda Softworks — that his No. 1 pick for an acquisition or merger is Nintendo. In emails leaked as part of the Federal Trade Commission’s case to block the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal in court, Spencer named Nintendo as “THE prime asset for us in Gaming.”

Spencer discussed the possibility of an acquisition or merger with Nintendo in an email with Microsoft executive Takeshi Numoto. Spencer said that he’d “had numerous conversations with the [leadership team] of Nintendo about tighter collaboration and feel like if any US company would have a chance with Nintendo we are probably in the best position.”

Two things stood in Microsoft’s way, according to Spencer: “The unfortunate (or fortunate for Nintendo) situation is that Nintendo is sitting on a big pile of cash,” and “they have a [board of directors] that until recently has not pushed for further increases in market growth or stock appreciation.”

I can’t imagine things going well for Nintendo — a company whose entire existence is based on their unique style, design, and taste — under Microsoft, a company infamous for having no taste.

And the translation for that last paragraph quoted above is that Nintendo is (a) profitable and (b) run by a board of directors who are interested not in a quick buck, but instead on stewarding the company’s continuing long-term success as a distinct and independent company.

Update: I either forgot this or never knew it, but Microsoft inquired about acquiring Nintendo back around 1999, before committing to designing and building its own hardware for the original Xbox.

Thursday, 21 September 2023