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Microsoft reveals letter from that time it failed to buy Nintendo

"I understand Mr. Takeda's concerns about the possible partnership..."

Back in 1999, before the original Xbox, Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo. It didn't go so well.

Now, more than two decades later, Microsoft has published a letter sent between the companies at the time, revealing plans for what might have been.

The document was sent by Xbox's then-hardware chief Rick Thompson to Nintendo of America's then business boss Jacqualee Story, and discusses Microsoft's attempts to meet with Nintendo legends Hiroshi Yamauchi, then boss of the company, and Genyo Takeda, Nintendo's hardware chief. Again, it sounds like Microsoft was having a tough time.

The letter is part of the new browser-based Xbox interactive museum, which went live yesterday. Much of the document is sadly censored by big green text, but you can work out a few phrases.

"Dear Jacqualee, I appreciate you taking the time to try to arraign a meeting with Mr. Takeda and Mr. Yamauchi to discuss a possible strategic partnership between Nintendo and Microsoft on future video game platforms," the letter begins. "I understand Mr. Takeda's concerns about the possible partnership and will try to [obscured] the guidelines that he has requested."

The rest of the letter is mostly obscured, but there's a brief mention of Microsoft still continuing development on its "Xbox project", alongside the suggestion it would "help make Dolphin the best". Dolphin, of course, was Nintendo's codename for GameCube.

Microsoft detailed its bid to buy Nintendo in an oral history of the original Xbox's creation published earlier this year. Kevin Bachus, former director of third-party relations, recalled how the eventual meeting went poorly.

"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."

A later pitch, the year after that letter, was for Xbox to simply focus on Nintendo's hardware while Nintendo itself focused on games. Nintendo returned to the table for talks.

"We actually had Nintendo in our building in January 2000 to work through the details of a joint venture where we gave them all the technical specs of the Xbox," then head of business development Bob McBreen said.

"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?'."

That didn't work out either.

Microsoft celebrated the 20th anniversary of Xbox last week with the (not so) surprise launch of Halo Infinite's multiplayer portion, as well as the announcement of an Xbox project origins documentary series, a glimpse at the upcoming Paramount+ Halo TV show, and more than 70 additional Xbox backwards compatible games.

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Tom Phillips


Tom is Eurogamer's Editor-in-Chief. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon. Tom joined Eurogamer in 2010 following a stint running a Nintendo fansite, and still owns two GameCubes. He also still plays Pokémon Go every day.