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Microsoft Gaming CEO really believed in buying Nintendo in 2020

It would've been interesting to see how a Microsoft-Nintendo merger would turn out and how long it would take.

Can you imagine if Microsoft ended up owning Nintendo?

In a surprising revelation from the US Federal Trade Commission's documentation related to Microsoft's bid to purchase Activision Blizzard, an email by Microsoft's gaming CEO, Phil Spencer, details a speculative plan to acquire Nintendo.

The now-public email sent on August 6, 2020, was directed to Microsoft's chief marketing officer Chris Capossela and commercial chief marketing officer Takeshi Numoto.

Initiating the discourse, Spencer recognized Nintendo as a "prime asset" and emphasized Microsoft's unique position to negotiate, thanks to their association with San Fran investment fund ValueAct. ValueAct had been actively buying stocks in Nintendo at the time as part of its attempt to influence the company's board to consider an acquisition proposal.

It makes for a fun "What If?" scenario to imagine a reality where regulators approved of a Microsoft-Nintendo merger.

Significantly, Spencer pointed out that Microsoft's history of conversations and collaborations with Nintendo's put it at an advantageous position among US companies to collaborate with the Japanese giant. However, he also acknowledged Nintendo's strong financial standing and a historically non-aggressive board as potential roadblocks to a near-term merger.

This dialogue was notably fueled by ValueAct's acquisition of $1.1 billion in Nintendo shares in April 2020. Spencer and a working relationship with ValueAct's CEO, Mason Morfit, had him optimistic about potential opportunities emerging from their increasing influence on Nintendo's board.

Intriguingly, in the same email, Spencer acknowledged other acquisition pursuits, notably Valve - the developers of the digital games distribution platform, Steam. Additionally, Spencer mentioned active merger discussions with Warner Bros Interactive and ZeniMax Media, the former of which didn't culminate in any deal. Spencer highlighted that both Warner Bros and ZeniMax had assets comparable to Nintendo in terms of value and relevance, with ZeniMax's acquisition potentially doubling Microsoft's content assets.

Mortal Kombat 1 could've been exclusive to the Xbox had Microsoft pushed through with buying Warner Bros. Interactive.

The mentioned discussions were happening alongside Microsoft's negotiations with TikTok, a deal encouraged by the Trump administration which didn't materialize.

In his correspondence, Spencer envisioned the acquisition of Nintendo as a monumental step in his career, opining it beneficial for both enterprises. He candidly expressed his belief in Nintendo's potential growth outside its hardware boundaries - a sentiment he has held for a significant period.

Historically, Microsoft had previously shown interest in purchasing Nintendo around the inception of the original Xbox in 2000, a proposal met with humor from the Japanese firm.

Valve has never really shown any interest in an acquisition but if there's a company who has the money to pay for its asking price, it's Microsoft.

"Overly optimistic" seems like the perfect way to describe Spencer's hopes of buying Nintendo. We've already learned how messy these things can get. It's already having difficulty closing the deal with Activision Blizzard, which forced it to pay a hefty sum and make several concessions only to delay the potential closure of the purchase to much later this year.

Can you imagine just how messy such acquisition plans could've gotten for Microsoft? And that's if it even gets the green light from Nintendo, which it probably never will. 

Between the countless regulatory bodies that would undoubtedly try to block the deal and Nintendo's likely refusal of the offer, this deal would've never materialized. Not to mention, it was proposed at arguably the highest peak of the still-surging Nintendo Switch - Animal Crossing: New Horizons had just set a new record as the fastest-selling console game at launch at the time.

Starfield is easily one of this generation's most talked about games.

Still, you'd have to commend Microsoft's attempt at acquiring video game studios to bolster its chances at competing against PlayStation and Nintendo. From its acquisitions of Mojang and Ninja Theory to larger purchases like ZeniMax Media and Activision Blizzard, it's clear that Xbox wants to remain a major player in the gaming industry. Furthermore, the current revelations from the FTC proceedings have unearthed an array of insights into Microsoft's inner dynamics, from future game release plans to their stance on console exclusives.

If nothing else, Microsoft's strategy of buying out more companies demonstrate its aggressive strategy in solidifying its stronghold in the gaming industry.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was at its absolute peak when Microsoft thought of buying Nintendo.

At the end of the, all's well that ends well. Two years later, Microsoft is finally reaping the benefits of its ZeniMax Media purchase. Hi-Fi Rush, Ghostwire: Tokyo, and Starfield, are all surging at the right time. If it's true that the remasters of Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion are coming soon, then Spencer will have all the more reason to celebrate. It's a shame though that Redfall had to tarnish what should've been a relatively spotless record.

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Ray Ampoloquio

Ray Ampoloquio // Articles: 5954

Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time.
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