Microsoft has been in a buying mood lately, snapping up numerous gaming companies ranging from indie developers like Double Fine and Obsidian, to mega publishers like Bethesda, and this isn’t the first time they tried to establish a foothold in the industry by opening their wallets. Back in the year 2000, Microsoft was interested in acquiring Nintendo, but according to a new oral history of the original Xbox published today by Bloomberg, negotiations didn’t exactly go well. In fact, according to original Xbox team member Kevin Bachus, Nintendo’s reps laughed in their faces…
Steve [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.
Despite that initial reaction, Microsoft still tried to float the idea of some sort of partnership with Nintendo, but in the end, nothing came of it.
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 wasn't the only company Microsoft tried to purchase -- they also were in negotiations with EA, Midway, and Square Enix, and apparently got quite close to closing the deal with the latter, but ultimately it was all for naught.
One wonders how Nintendo would respond if Microsoft tried to acquire them today. I bet they wouldn’t laugh, although the answer would be the same. If you you’ve got a few minutes to spare, I suggest you check out the full Bloomberg piece, as it’s a fascinating little slice of history.