Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony dominate the gaming industry. They’re titans and while Google and Amazon have tried to break in as well, it’s not as easy as it looks. Microsoft learned this the hard way in the early 2000s when they tried to buy Nintendo.
Of course, this was a ridiculous idea. The big N was doing just fine and they weren’t about to give up Mario and Zelda to a company who had yet to even make a video game console. In a new oral history of the original Xbox from Bloomberg (via Eurogamer), the Nintendo/Microsoft relationship was definitely not very friendly.
“Steve [Ballmer, ex-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,” said Kevin Bachus, former director of third-party relations at Microsoft.
In January 2000, Nintendo ended up coming in to Microsoft. Microsoft was looking to help the team build their next console, even going as far as showing them the specs for the first Xbox, but Nintendo rejected the offer.
“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,” said Bob McBreen, former head of business development.
Microsoft and Nintendo have since had a friendlier relationship. Games like Ori and Minecraft have appeared on the Nintendo Switch, cross-play is available between both Xbox and Nintendo, and there will likely be more to come going forward.