Microsoft’s been on a tear over the last few years, dropping a casual billion dollars here and there to acquire studios that can make the Xbox an RPG ecosystem not to be chuffed around with. That spending spree could have occurred a lot sooner though, as during the early days of the development of the original Xbox console, Microsoft was ready to throw money at some big names in the gaming industry.
Bloomberg spoke with more than 20 people involved with the creation of the first Xbox, which revealed how Microsoft had its wallet aimed at Nintendo. The Big N declined an offer according to former head of business development at Microsoft Bob McBreen, although then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent staff to Japan to continue chatting.
“Steve made us go meet with Nintendo to see if they would consider being acquired. They just laughed their asses off. Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went,” Bachus said.
While Nintendo wasn’t ready to sell itself off to Microsoft, it was interested in some sort of tag team venture and executives flew over to Microsoft in January 2000 to discuss providing games for the Xbox. “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,” McBreen explained.
At one point, Microsoft even made an offer to acquire Square, but the company behind the Final Fantasy series at the time turned it down because the offer was too low. Mortal Kombat developer at the time Midway was also being eyed for a takeover, but that deal quickly got complicated. “We couldn’t figure out how to make it work because we’d immediately get them out of the PlayStation business, and we didn’t need their sales and marketing group, and so that left us with not a lot of value,” Bachus said.
The rest of the Bloomberg piece makes for brilliant reading, especially with anecdotes of how Steve Ballmer was weirdly terrifying and Bill Gates almost Hulked out during a meeting. “I don’t remember that, but it’s possible,” Ballmer said of an incident where he popped into hardware chief Rick Thompson’s office and laid down the law. While holding a baseball bat.
I’m sure I was playing with the baseball bat. People used to think I meant it as a threat, but some Microsoft customer had given it to me, and I’m a hyperactive dude, so it was something I was always sort of nicking around with. In defense of my reputation, I have ADHD, but I am not mean.
Rich people operate on a different logic, I swear.
Last Updated: January 7, 2021