Over 20 years ago, as Microsoft was gearing up to release the original Xbox, some at the company were concerned that they wouldn’t have enough games to accompany the console at launch. So someone had the bright idea to try to buy Nintendo. Problem solved.
Only catch was that Nintendo, as we learned earlier this year, “laughed their asses off.” Kevin Bachus, Microsoft’s former director of third-party relations for Xbox, summed up the meeting:
Steve [Ballmer, Microsoft’s former 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.
Ruthless. Anyway! It’s all water under the bridge in 2021, and in keeping with the spirit of looking back, Microsoft used its 20th anniversary memorial site to release some primary evidence of the attempted purchase. It features the (partial) publication of this 1999 letter from vice president Rick Thompson to Nintendo of America.
It’s ruined slightly by the enormous text splashed across the middle, but we can read enough around the edges to get the tone. “I understand Mr. Takeda’s concerns,” is certainly an understatement given Nintendo’s ultimate reaction, and Microsoft offering to help “make Dolphin the best video game [console]” is an interesting one, and not as absurd as it first sounds. The original Xbox and GameCube (Dolphin was its codename) would go on to be very different experiences.
We can also see down the bottom the two people Microsoft would be meeting with; long-time Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi and hardware legend Genyo Takeda. I’m not sure if those two were present when asses were laughed off, but I want to believe Yamauchi was, stifling a chuckle in the corner like a true statesman.
If you want to try to squint through the redacted sections, here’s the image as Microsoft shared it: