While the story is funny to hear about now, Microsoft was just exploring all of its options at the time according to a former Microsoft employee.
Earlier in the month, Bloomberg published a story that detailed how Microsoft had attempted to purchase Nintendo many years ago. When the discussions occurred, Nintendo apparently laughed Microsoft out of the room, according to Kevin Bachus, Xbox’s former director of third party relations.
During the same interview, Robbie Bach, former president of the entertainment and devices division at Microsft, spoke a little bit on the story. He explained that the company was “looking for partners” and exploring “every angle.” Plus, Nintendo is right across the street from its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
During the interview, Bach stated: “In the early days of the Xbox concept, Microsoft didn’t want to do the hard work – that just wasn’t something we knew how to do and so the idea was we were looking for partners. We talked to all the PC manufacturers, we talked to Sega and so we went and talked to Nintendo – they were the big kids on the block for sure, and by the way, they were across the street from our offices, so it wasn’t like we had to make a long trip to go see them.”
Bach continued: “So we had a conversation and the reaction we got was probably what we expected. You know, Microsoft didn’t have all that much to bring to the table, Nintendo was successful and has always been sort of a self-contained company – does a lot of their own content, but Bob and his team explored every angle”
Bach later explained that Microsoft ultimately went into developing hardware, which was actually a last option for the company. It does sound a little weird to hear that now that the Xbox is so ingrained into the gaming ecosystem. He stated: “Ultimately, we decided to go into the hardware, which was sort of the last option and I know that sounds kinda goofy, but we weren’t a hardware company and so for us to decide we wanted to manufacture hardware was a huge commitment. And we tried a lot of different ways to not do that and in the end, we had to do that ourselves.”
The former Microsoft president detailed that some publishers had wanted them to go into the hardware business so that there would be some more competition for Nintendo and Sony. He stated: “I mean ironically the number one people who were telling us we should do the hardware was actually third-party publishers. People like Electronic Arts and Activision and those guys, they wanted somebody to compete with Sony and Nintendo – so having a third person in the market place was good for them. And they didn’t want somebody to do what 3DO did which was license their hardware to other people, they wanted somebody who had skin in the game on the hardware.”
While I am glad Nintendo decided not to agree to a buyout, I really wonder what the gaming landscape would look like right now if it did. I doubt we would have seen all the spectacular and unspectacular moves we have seen Nintendo make throughout the years.