Late last year, the gaming industry as we know it changed. No, I’m not talking about the launch of the new consoles, but another bombshell announcement in that same November when it was revealed that Microsoft was going to acquire in full Bethesda. While there has been a lot of acquisitions recently from a lot of companies, it was the first time we’ve seen a major third party publisher be acquired in full by a platform holder. What you think of that is up to you, but it’s something that seems ingrained in the DNA of Xbox, even from the early days.
In an incredible piece by Dina Bass at Bloomberg, they sat down with major figures from the early days at the Xbox division for an oral history. There they share stories of what the budding gaming empire was like, and in part of that was moves that Microsoft made to attempt to buy certain companies as they aimed to muscle into the video game business. Former Head of Business Development Bob McBreen recalled going to EA to propose buying them out, in which they replied with a simple no. But it’s really the meeting with Nintendo that is where the spicy memories are.
As told by McBreen, former Director of Third-Party Relations Kevin Bachus, and former CEO Steve Ballmer, they approached Nintendo about seeking for some type of merger or buyout. They showed them the specs of what the Xbox would be with the pitch that they could use the power of this console and their software to combat the market leader, Sony. Apparently, Nintendo ‘laughed them out of the building,’ and the pitch was thoroughly rejected. It seems they also made moves to try and acquire publisher Square Enix and Midway.
The article is well worth a full read-through. Besides the attempts to buy out these major companies, there’s also stories about getting exclusivity deals and some less than fun sounding workplace stories that may paint a different picture of the one you usually have of Bill Gates.