Xbox once pitched an acquisition of Nintendo, and was met with laughter

“Steve [Ballmer] made us go meet with Nintendo to see if they would consider being acquired. They just laughed their asses off.”

Kevin Bachus, one of the key figures behind Microsoft’s launch of its first Xbox, shares one particularly interesting failed accusation pitch.

The last few years have seen Microsoft turn to acquisitions as a way to bolster its first-party lineup and, according to several folks involved in Xbox’s debut way back when, the company took a similar strategy ahead of its first console launch…with varying levels of success.

Among those pitched on potential acquisition early on was apparently Mario-maker Nintendo, an idea that was, according to a recent oral history from Bloomberg, met with resounding laughter from the Japanese company.

Kevin Bachus, then Xbox’s third-party relations director, says that the team approached Nintendo (after earning a “no thanks” from EA) for acquisition talks at the behest of then-CEO Steve Ballmer, but the pitch didn’t go over well.

“They just laughed their asses off,” recalls Bachus. “Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.”

The idea, continues then-business development head Bob McBreen, was that Nintendo was outgunned in the Japanese console market and would do better as a part of Microsoft’s console lineup.

“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,” says McBreen. “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.”

Square (now Square Enix) and Midway Games were also on Microsoft’s shopping list, but while those discussions seemingly went better than chats with Nintendo, neither worked out in the end.

There’s plenty more on the history and early trials of Microsoft’s early days in the console market in the full story from Bloomberg, found here.

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