The genesis of the first Xbox is one of the most interesting in the history of video games; who could have imagined at the end of the 90s to see Microsoft – the giant of the software, of the office automation, in short, of all that is far from the concept of “fun” – to launch out to the assault of the video game industry?
The Bloomberg site recently posted a long oral history rich in anecdotes tracing the origins of the project initially named “Midway” which would become the new major pixel player in the next century; and one of the funniest of them concerns Nintendo …
At the turn of the new millennium, Microsoft's teams were hard at work – armed with the parent company's sizeable portfolio, the new subsidiary supposed to build the future with controller in hand knocked on the door of many prestigious Japanese publishers in search of new acquisitions to establish a portfolio of creatives. While some attempts have turned out to be a success story, as with the American studio Bungie, others have turned out to be most unsuccessful.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself reportedly courted Square Enix – back in the Squaresoft era before it merged with Enix – in November 1999, but the US giant's offer proved too low for the publisher of Final Fantasy. Midway, creators of the Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam franchises, would also have been considered, without sequels.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
One of the most striking revelations of the article is part of this farandole of video game giants – Microsoft has tried to enter into discussions with Nintendo to lead to a possible acquisition, placing the Kyoto firm under the weathervane of the 'American ogre. Bob McGreen, once director of business development, describes Microsoft's ambitions for this special kind of partnership:
“We received Nintendo in our office in January 2000 to work on the details of a joint project where we gave them all the technical specifications of the Xbox. The pitch was that their hardware sucked, and compared to Sony's PlayStation it was. So the idea was, “Look, we're a lot better at the gaming part with Mario and all. Why not let us take care of the hardware? ” But it didn't take. ”
The director of relations with third-party publishers at the time Kevin Bachus thus describes a most comical scene between the two parties, the outcome of which was necessarily foreseen in advance.
“Steve [Ballmer] took us to Nintendo to ask them if they were considering a possible acquisition. They just laughed at us. Like, imagine an hour of someone laughing at your expense. That's kind of how this meeting went. ”