In America, business acquisitions and mergers happen all the time. Big ones in history include AOL and Time Warner, Heinz and Kraft Foods, and Exxon and Mobile just to name a few. These kinds of situations usually result in cheaper and more convenient product distribution, but it usually is at the expense of quality. In January of 2000, Microsoft thought a merger with or acquisition of Nintendo would be great for business. The result? Nintendo laughed, and they laughed hard.
This is that time Nintendo laughed at Microsoft for trying to buy them out.
The idea of Microsoft and Nintendo merging does immediately present lots of benefits. For example: the past couple years, the two companies have been playing rather nice, and Nintendo has benefited tremendously from the games Microsoft has allowed on the Nintendo Switch, like Cuphead, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Minecraft Dungeons.
The idea of Microsoft properties popping up on Nintendo titles is very exciting. Master Chief in Smash Bros would be insane, and a port of the HD remaster for Perfect Dark would be amazing on the Switch. The problem with this current relationship is that it is very one-sided, and Nintendo is the only one gaining strength (Poor Microsoft).
There is a reason for this, though, and it is a cultural one. Japan is very protective of their businesses, and the old-school mentality is that it is better for the business to burn to the ground with its head held high than to sell off and sully the name, similar to a captain’s promise to his ship. Sony is a perfect example of this right now, as the company for the most part has been suffering for years, with every division outside of PlayStation falling into the red year-by-year.
Microsoft has always struggled in the Japanese market. Outside of their operating system for Windows, the company just never clicked with the Japanese people. Even when the original Xbox launched in 2001, Microsoft struggled to connect with the culture and advertise their powerful console at the time to a very different audience. In turn, the original Xbox only sold 450,000 units in Japan over a four-year period, which is abysmal in regards to hardware sales.
However, prior to the launch of their own console, Microsoft, an American company, attempted to acquire Nintendo, a Japanese company, and things did not go well at all.
According to a Bloomberg article from January 2021, Kevin Bachus, former director of third-party relations with Microsoft, shared the experience in excruciating detail. He said, “Steve [Ballmer, ex-Microsoft CEO] 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.”
At the time in 2000, Nintendo was lagging behind tremendously compared to the powerful and successful console being sold by Sony. With Nintendo being so far behind their Japanese competition, Microsoft tried to step in as a savior of sorts so they could work together in order to defeat the evil Sony.
Bachus continued, “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.” Instead of creating a compromising agreement, Microsoft directly insulted Nintendo and their hardware shortcomings compared to the competition, and it did not take into consideration Nintendo’s pedigree in regards to the console market they have been a part of since 1983.
This would later blow up in Microsoft’s face once the Nintendo DS launched in 2004 and the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006, both consoles being two of the greatest selling of all time, cementing Nintendo’s position at the top alongside Microsoft and Sony.
Ironically, as of 2020 and 2021, Nintendo is the one so far in the lead that Microsoft has had to do the opposite of their initial request from 2000. Instead of Nintendo games coming to Microsoft hardware, we are getting Microsoft games on Nintendo hardware, because Microsoft is hurting right now in regards to hardware and software sales, especially when compared to the incredibly popular and money-printing machine that is the Nintendo Switch.
At the end of the day, this was simply a bad move by Microsoft. Their inability to understand a Japanese business like Nintendo before attempting to acquire them shows how ill-prepared they were before the meeting. The result? Nintendo laughed, and they laughed hard.
Many Americans and American companies are quite shortsighted when it comes to life and business, and this was exactly Microsoft’s misstep. They were unable to see what Nintendo would be able to pull off in the next 20+ years, but Nintendo, ever the optimistic company, knew they would rise from the ashes like a phoenix and continue to stay atop an industry that constantly tries to push them down. Nintendo laughed once, and they will continue to laugh to the bank every time a naysayer doubts their abilities.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link and enjoying this “That Time” article. What do you think about how Nintendo laughed at Microsoft? Do you think it was deserved? Let us know what you think in the comments below! Happy gaming, everyone.
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.