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Xbox boss Phil Spencer wanted Microsoft to acquire "prime asset" Nintendo in 2020

"It's just taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware."

Chris Kerr, News Editor

September 19, 2023

2 Min Read
The Xbox Series S and Nintendo Switch on an orange background

Microsoft once believed (and perhaps still does) that acquiring Nintendo would be its "most likely path to consumer relevance" and would have attempted to purchase the Switch maker had the opportunity arisen.

In an email that was part of a bundle of leaked documents from the FTC v Microsoft lawsuit, Microsoft execs Chris Capossela, Takeshi Numoto, and Phil Spencer discussed the possibility of acquiring Nintendo and described the Japanese company as "the prime asset for us in gaming."

The email was sent in August 2020 with the subject "random thought" and shows the trio mulling over other potential acqusitions including buyouts of Warner Bros Interactive and Bethesda owner Zenimax Media, the latter of which Microsoft did eventually purchase.

In the email chain, Xbox boss Phil Spencer explained he'd already had "numerous conversations" with Nintendo about "tighter collaboration," and suggested Microsoft would be in the "best position" to acquire the Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda developer compared to other U.S. companies.

At the time, Spencer said "gaming is [Microsoft's] most likely path to consumer relevance," underlining why the company was exploring significant mergers and acquisitions.

Microsoft happy to play "long game" in order to merge with Nintendo

Notably, Spencer added that Microsoft would need to play the "long game" if it hoped to merge with Nintendo, but noted that the company's board of director's had seen the "full writeup" and was "fully supportive" of a move in the right circumstances.

"The unfortunate (or fortunate for Nintendo) situation is that Nintendo is sitting on a big pile of cash [and] they have a board of directors that until recently has not pushed for further increases in market growth or stock appreciation," said Spencer, explaining why Microsoft would need to bide its time.

Despite that, he noted that Microsoft's former board of director member, ValueAct, had been "heavily acquiring" shares of Nintendo and said the push for more Nintendo stock could "create opportunities for us."

"Without that catalyst I don't see an angle to a near term mutually agreeable merger of Nintendo and Microsoft, and I don't think a hostile action would be a good move so we are playing the long game," continued Spencer.

"I love this discussion and value you looking at the opportunities here. At some point, getting Nintendo would be a career moment and I honestly believe a good move for both companies. It's just taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware."

The FTC v Microsoft leak also included a hardware roadmap that indicates Microsoft will launch a refreshed, all-digital Xbox Series X in October 2024 before rolling out a next-gen "cloud hybrid" Xbox in 2028.

You can see Spencer's portion of the email exchange in full below (thanks ResetEra).


About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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