20 Years Ago: Xbox Offered To Buy Nintendo, The Japanese Never Stopped Laughing

20 years ago, former Xbox executives offered to buy Nintendo in order to lock in its first-party games for the Xbox. The Japanese video game company didn’t just decline to entertain the offer, they laughed for a whole hour according to a new report by Bloomberg. Word on the street is – they’re still laughing. Have you heard of the Nintendo Switch?

Microsoft had reached out to a number of companies with acquisition offers back when it was first getting the Xbox off the ground. Some of these companies include EA, Midway Games, and Square (now Square Enix). EA declined and the latter thought the offer was too low. But nothing beats Nintendo’s response.

“Steve (Microsoft’s former CEO) made us go meet with Nintendo to see if they would consider being acquired,” said Kevin Bachus, Microsoft’s former director of third-party relations for Xbox. “They just laughed their asses off. Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.”

Bill Gates and Dwayne Johnson at the launch of Xbox in 2001

The former Xbox executives felt that Nintendo’s beloved series like Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda would combine well with the console’s superior hardware.

“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,” Bob McBreen, then head of Xbox business development told Bloomberg. “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 GameCube

At the time, Nintendo had put out the Nintendo 64 and was gearing up for the release of GameCube, both of which sold terribly. A few years later, the Japanese company went on to release the DS and Wii, two of the most successful gaming platforms ever. In 2020, the Switch was in high demand during the quarantine. Though things did work out well for the Japanese in the end, one can’t help but wonder what the Xbox would have looked like if Nintendo was successfully acquired.

In the meantime, Microsoft has continued acquiring other gaming companies such as ZeniMax Media in the last year. The company also launched xCloud with more than 150 games and of course, the Xbox Series X.