Xbox has made significant acquisitions this generation, like its $7.5 billion purchase of ZeniMax Media and its colossal $69 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition. Xbox and Microsoft spent a lot of time this year in courts working to get its purchase of Activision Blizzard legally approved, and many documents were sealed away from the public and press during these proceedings. However, various unseen documents from those court proceedings have leaked. One email reveals Xbox head Phil Spencer was considering an acquisition of Mario maker Nintendo and Mortal Kombat 1 publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (now known as Warner Bros. Games) at one point.
Axios reporter Stephen Totilo posted, on Twitter, a leaked August 2020 email from Spencer to Chris Capossela and Takeshi Numoto, executive vice presidents and chief marketing officers at Microsoft. In this email, Spencer discusses acquiring Nintendo, referring to its possibility as a “career moment” and a “good move for both companies.” He also says it’s taking a long time for Nintendo “to see that their future exists off of their own hardware,” likely referring to Nintendo games becoming part of the Xbox ecosystem in this potential acquisition.
In Aug. 2020 Phil Spencer mulled prospects of buying Nintendo (or Valve), said Microsoft’s board “are fully supportive on either if opportunity arises”
Thought outside investment in N might create more opportunity for MS, but “I don’t think a hostile action would be a good move” pic.twitter.com/nHqQ5mxHbn
— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) September 19, 2023
However, Spencer also casts doubt on actually being able to acquire Nintendo, citing that the Japanese company is “sitting on a big pile of cash.” He also notes that without a stock buyout-related catalyst, he doesn’t “see an angle to a near term mutually agreeable merger of Nintendo and [Microsoft].” He also doesn’t think hostile action would be a good move, so Microsoft is “playing the long game.”
In that same email, Spencer talks about potential acquisitions of ZeniMax Media, the company behind Bethesda, which Xbox did end up buying in 2021, and Warner Bros. Interactive, which is the publisher responsible for this year’s Hogwarts Legacy and this week’s Mortal Kombat 1.
“Confidentially, we have two fairly active M&A discussions in Gaming right now,” Spencer writes in the email. “Warner Brothers Interactive and ZeniMax […] I won’t say WB or Zeni is Nintendo but both are for sale and gettable by us if things align.”
Spencer then explains that the biggest obstacle with Warner Bros. Interactive is IP ownership, as even after the potential acquisition, Xbox wouldn’t own any of the IP, which he says “hurts long term flexibility.” He says the biggest obstacle with ZeniMax Media is “valuation expectations of founders,” before noting that he thinks “it’s likely one or both of these happen which will help us continue to double down on our Gaming relevance.”
This leaked email and various other leaked documents arrive at a time when Microsoft is still working to get the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority regulatory agency on board with its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. You can catch up on all of that here.
Do you think Xbox should acquire Nintendo? What about Warner Bros. Interactive? Let us know in the comments below!