Microsoft Gaming chief Phil Spencer wanted to acquire Nintendo so bad, he considered it a “career moment.” One of the leaked documents from the FTC v. Microsoft case was an email Spencer sent to the company’s Chief Marketing Officers Chris Capossela and Takeshi Numoto in 2020. The executive talked about how Nintendo was the prime asset for the tech giant in gaming, which is Microsoft’s best bet for consumer relevance. He was confident that if there was an American company capable of acquiring Nintendo, it was Microsoft. However, Nintendo was apparently sitting on a “big pile of cash” that made it unlikely to go looking for buyers.
Spencer added that Nintendo had a board of directors that had not pushed for increases in market growth in ages. He explained that it might change in the future, though, as one of Microsoft’s board of directors — investment company ValueAct Capital — had been “heavily acquiring” Nintendo shares and had been “fully supportive” of an acquisition if the opportunity arose.
Microsoft has a long history of trying to acquire the Japanese gaming giant. When Bloomberg published an in-depth oral account of how the Xbox came to be for its 20th anniversary in 2021, it was revealed that the company asked Nintendo if it was willing to be acquired — and got laughed out of the room. “They just laughed their asses off,” Xbox co-creator Kevin Bachus said. “Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.” Microsoft also reportedly asked Nintendo to let it take care of hardware so it could focus on games, but it ultimately failed to convince the company to do a merger.
In Spencer’s letter, he said it was “taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware.” And then he ended it with a smiley face that seemed to indicate that he was willing to play the long game, though it’s unclear if he still has plans to make another attempt at a merger. Microsoft’s legal battle against the Federal Trade Commission will decide the outcome of the company’s $69 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition. The company announced the massive purchase in early 2022, but the FTC filed a lawsuit to block the merger, which the agency says can harm competition in the gaming market.