One of the biggest leaks in gaming history hit Microsoft on September 19, detailing tons of behind-the-scenes plans for Xbox, including games in development, a refreshed design for the flagship Series X, and speculative pricing about bringing titles to Game Pass. One particularly interesting tidbit, comes from an August 2020 email from Xbox head Phil Spencer, saying that Nintendo is a “prime asset” and candidate for purchase.
Spencer’s email was sent to two top marketing executives for Xbox, Takeshi Numoto and Chris Capossela, as reported by The Verge.
“Nintendo is THE prime asset for us in Gaming and today Gaming is our most likely path to consumer relevance. I’ve had a number of conversions with the LT 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,” wrote Spencer. (LT presumably refers to “Leadership Team.”)
Spencer said that “getting Nintendo would be a career moment and I honestly believe a good move for both companies.”
That was a farfetched idea even in 2020, but especially in 2023 when Nintendo is experiencing greater success than ever before, thanks to the enduring popularity of the Switch and the stellar box-office showing from The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Even so, Spencer ended the email by saying “It’s just taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware.”
Sure, things were different in 2020, but the Switch had already become a runaway success by that point, with no signs of slowing down. Just months before Spencer’s email, Animal Crossing: New Horizons took the world by storm, selling over 11 million copies in just 12 days.
The other aspect here is what an acquisition of Nintendo would even look like, a company that has such a major market share in the gaming industry. Microsoft has faced incredible scrutiny from anti-trust groups over its purchase of Activision Blizzard, and it’s hard to imagine any governing body giving the green light to a monumental purchase like Nintendo.
Ironically, this isn’t the first time Microsoft has made moves on Nintendo. Back in 2021, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft weighed using its considerable capital to purchase Nintendo around the launch of the original Xbox in 2000. In the piece, the then-director for third-party relations at Xbox, Kevin Bachus, gave a pretty hilarious rundown of Nintendo’s complete disinterest:
“They just laughed their asses off. Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.”
It’s very hard to imagine such a meeting going any differently today.