This is according to a new oral history report from Bloomberg, which includes former Xbox execs recounting the early history of the Xbox, in conjunction with the console’s 20th anniversary.
The report noted that Microsoft had attempted to acquire several major gaming companies prior to its launch of the original Xbox console. Bob McBreen, former head of business development at Xbox, recalled: “The first company we reached out to buy was EA. They said, ‘No, thanks,’ and then Nintendo.”
Kevin Bachus, one of founding members of Xbox, recounted the team’s encounter with Nintendo. “They just laughed their asses off. Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went,” he recalled.
Microsoft also had plans to work on Xbox with Nintendo as a joint venture, where the tech giant would work on hardware while Nintendo would focus on making games. “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?’” said McBreen. “But it didn’t work out.”
The team then tried to acquire Square Enix – formerly known as Square – and Mortal Kombat publisher Midway Games. Square turned down the offer as Microsoft’s offering price was too low.
Midway Games was more receptive to the potential acquisition. However, the deal never came to fruition as Bachus recounted: “[We] didn’t need their sales and marketing group, and so that left us with not a lot of value”.
Microsoft announced in September 2020 its intentions to acquire ZeniMax Media and all of its subsidiary studios including Bethesda Softworks and id Software. The deal is expected to be finalised this year, and is valued at US$7.5billion, making it the biggest gaming deal in history.