Microsoft once tried to acquire Nintendo and got laughed at. Back in the late 1990s, Microsoft was looking to get into the world of gaming. However, the chips were stacked against them from the start, thanks to the success of Sony’s PlayStation and the legend of Nintendo. Before getting into gaming, the company was best-known for Windows and its Office software, which was everywhere. They had the funds to do whatever they wanted, but they still struggled to get people to believe in their idea for a console.
In a new interview, Kevin Bachus, Microsoft’s director of third-party relations, recalled how Steve Ballmer, president and soon-to-be CEO of Microsoft, had an idea to meet up with Nintendo back in 2000. Ballmer is and was a massive Nintendo fan. Bachus said, “[Ballmer] 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.”
While Nintendo had the video games, their consoles weren’t always hailed as giant leaps forward. Sony knew this, and Microsoft wanted to capitalize on it, knowing that they had the money to do so. Bob McBreen, head of business development, says, “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.” Nintendo was not about to give up what they were doing in order to start a partnership with Microsoft. It is believed that Nintendo is currently worth over $85 billion, so it seems they were wise to stick to their guns.
The Chairman of Nintendo of America, Howard Lincoln, will not discuss the meeting he had with Microsoft over 20 years ago. Lincoln states, “Nintendo does not talk about confidential discussions with other companies. In any event, nothing came of these discussions.” Nintendo went on to develop the Wii, while Microsoft went on to corner a massive slice of the market with the original Xbox and following consoles.
The Xbox Series X and S are officially available to purchase, but are difficult to come by due to the immense demand. Meanwhile, Nintendo is still churning out their own hits, thanks to the Switch, which has a massive open-world Zelda installment, along with their mascot Mario in several different games. In the end, one can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Nintendo would have agreed to the Microsoft deal back in 2000. You can check out the in-depth history of the original Xbox over at Bloomberg.