To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Xbox, Bloomberg’s Dina Bass conducted a series of interviews about how the original console came to be. Part of it involved finding out what plans Microsoft had for partnerships and acquisitions. It turns out the company not only met with companies like Konami and Tecmo to discuss getting games on the system, but Microsoft also explored the possibility of acquiring Nintendo, Square, EA, and Midway. While responses varied, the answer in many of those cases were essentially, “No.”
In the portion of the history discussing potential Microsoft acquisitions, Head of Business Development Bob McBreen, Director of Third-Party Relations Kevin Bachus, and former President and CEO Steve Ballmer went over the rejections. Efforts started with EA, which said no. Then, Microsoft turned to Nintendo about the possibility, which also resulted in a “no.” When Square representatives were approached, Microsoft was told the offer was too low.
Here’s the statement about the Microsoft and Nintendo pitch Bachus made to Bloomberg:
Steve [Ballmer] 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.
Bloomberg also approached Nintendo of America Chairman Howard Lincoln about the meeting. His response was as follows:
Nintendo does not talk about confidential discussions with other companies. In any event, nothing came of these discussions.
Here’s McBreen’s account of the Microsoft meeting with Square.
We had a letter of intent to buy Square. In early November 1999, we went to Japan. We had one of those big dinners with their CEO and Steve Ballmer. The next day, we’re sitting in their boardroom, and they said, “Our banker would like to make a statement.” And basically, the banker said, “Square cannot go through with this deal because the price is too low.” We packed up, we went home, and that was the end of Square.
While those acquisitions didn’t go well, the article did mention how well picking up Bungie went for Microsoft.
In the last few years, Microsoft has made a number of big-name acquisitions. It picked up inXile Entertainment and Obsidian Entertainment in November 2018, for example, and Bethesda in September 2020.
The original Xbox launched in North America on November 15, 2001. It appeared worldwide in 2002.