Microsoft Once Tried to Buy Nintendo But Thankfully Failed

Posted on January 6, 2021 by Brad Sams in Games with 10 Comments

For fans of Xbox, it’s a bit hard to believe that the console has been around for two decades. The launch of the Xbox vaulted Microsoft into the living room as a core component of the gaming industry but getting the hardware out the door was not an easy task.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back at the early challenges Microsoft faced looks minuscule when compared to the success of the platform. Sure, the PlayStation from Sony will outsell the Xbox consoles but the company is firmly cemented in the fast-growing industry and it is uniquely positioned for long-term success.

In a new, and well-written, writeup about the launch of the console, Dina Bass was able to chat with many of the key players who were instrumental in the development of the hardware. If you care about how the sausage is made, you will want to read the post.

One of the tidbits from the interviews is that Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo and failed. This information isn’t all the new and had been reported from the Nintendo vantage point but when Microsoft tried to acquire the company, they pitched that Nintendo was producing inferior hardware with superior software – they could build great games but the consoles were underpowered.

Their pitch was to let Microsoft build the hardware and have Nintendo build the games:

“Steve (Ballmer) made us (Kevin Bachus) 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.”

Thankfully, Microsoft was not able to buy Nintendo. Even to this day, Nintendo hardware is still underpowered compared to rivals from Sony and Microsoft but the company has mastered the art of creating compelling videogames for consoles.

Nintendo has proven that high-powered hardware isn’t what’s needed to make great games and it’s a lesson that continues to ring true throughout the entire gaming community.

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (10)

10 responses to “Microsoft Once Tried to Buy Nintendo But Thankfully Failed”

  1. j5

    I never heard of this story! Yeah, thankfully they didn't acquire Nintendo. I couldn't imagine the damage they would've done to the Nintendo brand and their IPs.

    I've always been more a Nintendo fan versus Sony or Playstation and it's always been because of how fun their games were and that I could play them around my toddler kids and then eventually play with them as they got older. Of course, my teens prefer more mature games, Xbox fans. But I also like that I can put a Switch game in and play. I don't have to mess with a bunch of home page settings, user IDs, etc.

    I still remember how confused I was going from N64 & Playstation, not touch console games till Xbox 360 and just being turned off by how I just couldn't put the game in and play. I had to create accounts for the games and the menu was constantly changed, lol get off my console lawn.

  2. crunchyfrog

    Could you imagine getting your new four pound GameBoy Advance with a sticker at the bottom, "Nintendo GameBoy powered by Microsoft Windows CE".

  3. sharpsone

    Modern gaming has become a cash-cow at the gamers expense... Any investment in digital content comes with significant risk to consumers. At least with physical media we had a little more control...without it we're at the mercy of corporations that could fold, change terms and always seem to look for creative ways to screw-consumers again and again.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to sharpsone:

      And the digital promise of being cheaper than physical copies has sailed! Content is more expensive than ever wasI Finally I find myself resorting to the standard cable programming to actually get something different to see. Even if its not the latest and the greatest.

  4. glenn8878

    Microsoft's biggest weakness is Windows. Trying to get everything on Windows is what sank almost every initiative. They will try to get Nintendo on Windows.

    • lee_mcknight

      In reply to glenn8878:
      They also tried to go the other way also. They had a perceived success with Windows, so we saw them try to shoehorn it into every other product they had: Xbox (running windows), Windows Phone, Windows Live Search, Windows Live Messenger, Games for Windows, and on and on...

  5. madthinus

    It is an excellent read!

  6. saqrkh

    Microsoft's best bet for Japan is to get exclusives from Square Enix, Sega, Bandai Namco, etc.

    Sure, you don't own the IP, but you can set-up a long-term track for existing Japanese works. For example, Sony set it up for the FF7R-series, Nintendo did it with Brave Default, etc.

    Microsoft should look to do the same with the Ace Combat series, a couple of big-budget JRPGs, and a range of other title types like platformers, fighting games, etc.

    Not sure, but would it be possible to get some Japanese studios to work on Microsoft IP (like Banjo, etc)?

  7. christianwilson

    This is a great read! One thing that caught my attention was something I do not remember from 2001. Halo showed poorly at E3 2001and it reminded me immediately of Halo Infinite. Bungie cleaned things up and released a classic just a few months later. Here is hoping 343 can do the same with Infinite a year and a half later.

Leave a Reply