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).