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Microsoft had plans for buying Nintendo and Valve, leaked email reveals

Documents show Phil Spencer discussing takeover options
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Microsoft proposing to buy Activision Blizzard sent a shockwave through the gaming industry and led to the ongoing court case between the company and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which in turn provides us with tons of internal information from the Xbox maker due to documents being unsealed and published by the court.

If you thought that taking over the Call of Duty developer was a big deal, then buckle up: In 2020, Xbox chief Phil Spencer presented Microsoft leadership with plans to buy Nintendo and Valve: “(...) our BoD [board of directors, editor’s note] has seen the full writeup on Nintendo (and Valve) and they fully supportive on either if opportunity arises as am I.”

Xbox chief Phil Spencer during a presentation.

Phil Spencer eyed a Nintendo takeover in 2020.

While the plans for Valve are not mentioned in this email, which was released as an attachment to an unsealed court document, in any detail, Spencer did provide some insight on how Microsoft was planning to force Nintendo into a merger: “The unfortunate (or fortunate for Nintendo) situation is that Nintendo is sitting on a big pile of cash, they have a BoD that until recently has not pushed for further increase in market growth or stock appreciation,” he reported to his colleagues Chris Capossela and Takeshi Numoto. “I say ‘until recently’ as our former MS BoD member ValueAct has been heavily acquiring shares of Nintendo (...) and I’ve kept in touch with Mason Morfit [ValueAct’s CEO, editor’s note] as he’s been acquiring. It’s likely he will be pushing for more Nintendo stock which could create opportunities for us.”

ValueAct purchased 1.1 billion USD in Nintendo shares in April 2020, according to Reuters.

Spencer wrote that without “that catalyst I don’t see an angle to a near term mutually agreeable merger of Nintendo and MS and I don’t think a hostile action would be a good move so we are playing the long game.”

Spencer called Nintendo “THE prime asset for us in Gaming” and said that he had discussions with the Japanese company about tightening its cooperation with Microsoft and Xbox.

Interestingly, this whole debate was going on as Microsoft was already in talks with ZeniMax and Warner Bros. Interactive (now WB Games) about acquiring those companies. As we know from history, Microsoft did end up taking over ZeniMax in March 2021, while no deal was reached with WB Games. There is also a mention of taking over TikTok for a sum between 10 and 30 billion USD and Microsoft’s board being fine with all three of these transactions happening at the same time.

“At some point, getting Nintendo would be a career moment and I honestly believe a good move for both companies,” Spencer concluded. “It’s just taking a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware. A long time… :-)”

These are not the only plans from Microsoft revealed through court documents: Other papers confirmed the next gen Xbox to be planned for a 2028 launch and detailed some next gen Xbox technical specifications, leaked several unannounced Microsoft games and their release windows, and unveiled the all-digital Xbox Series X refresh – all in the span of 24 hours.