Nintendo Switch Games
Image: Nintendo Life

The FTC case examining Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, depending on your perspective, is either the gift that keeps on giving or an eye-scrapingly dull, never-ending saga. Still, you can't deny that it's turned up some tasty behind-the-scenes morsels to chew on, giving gamers a fascinating glimpse of the day-to-day correspondences and conversation topics between some of the biggest names in the gaming industry.

Today's revelations will be keeping our friends over at Pure Xbox busy for some time, and we can't imagine Microsoft's top brass is happy to have its product plans, next-gen timelines, and unannounced projects ejected into the vacuum of the internet for all to see (although let's face it, nothing on that roster of potential games is particularly groundbreaking — holy crap, they're working on another DOOM and some remasters?! Unprecedented!).

Obviously, around these parts, we're more interested in an email between Xbox boss Phil Spencer and Microsoft CMOs Chris Capossela and Takeshi Numoto in which he explains his feelings around a potential acquisition of Nintendo by the US firm.

It's juicy stuff, and it's unusual to see such frank discussion of the topic between Microsoft's bigwigs. However, it should come as precisely zero surprise to anyone that Nintendo is, as Spencer puts it, "THE prime asset for us in Gaming." Given its historic place in the industry and its ability to craft evergreen, genre-shaping software while sticking to its core tenants of surprising and delighting a fiercely loyal audience, Microsoft being keen to co-opt Nintendo's prestige and expertise — not to mention its huge catalogue of all-ages IP — is the definition of a no-brainer.

Nintendo Switch Console and Games
'1-2-Switch, only on Xbox.' You know what, that sounds fine, actually — Image: Nintendo Life

Can you imagine the explosive overnight expansion in the Xbox demographic if it were suddenly the home of all Mario, Pokémon, Zelda, Animal Crossing, Kirby, and Metroid games? Any software-starved, cash-rich company in its right mind is keeping a watchful eye on Nintendo at all times, ready to make a move should "opportunities" arise.

Massive coroporation would like to get its hands on Mario? Shocker. You know what? Sony wouldn't mind that, either.

Looking at the email text, it's the mention of applying pressure for increased stock performance via Nintendo's Board of Directors, and the potential destabilisation and "opportunities" this might create for Microsoft to move closer to Nintendo, which feels like the most hostile, underhanded, and unsavoury detail. But again, while the naked, aggressive Capitalism of it might make Nintendo loyalists and lovers of the medium uncomfortable (and go against Spencer's magnanimous, inclusive 'Uncle Phil' persona), it's Business 101. There's really nothing incendiary about these revelations. Massive corporation would like to get its hands on Mario? Shocker. You know what? Sony wouldn't mind that, either.

Reading the text, you might come to the conclusion that Spencer's perspective that Nintendo's "future exists off of their own hardware" is totally pie-in-the-sky. And you wouldn't be wrong, although the troubled Wii U was fresher in people's minds back then. This email dates from 2020 and although Switch was doing very nicely at the time (Animal Crossing: New Horizons had launched three months prior), the idea that its success could be a pendulum swing before another disappointing console was far from crazy. And, to be fair, we're still in the dark about exactly what a 'Switch 2' will be and how it will fare; it's entirely possible that Nintendo's next consoles won't click with a mass-market audience in the same way. The ball is Nintendo's to drop.

Nintendo Switch Animal Crossing
2020 was a while ago now, but Nintendo's strength has only grown since then — Image: Nintendo Life

However, even if the next console were some colossal disaster, Nintendo has diversified its business in the past few years for precisely this reason. Its gradual evolution into a Disney-like 'entertainment' company (as Doug Bowser recently called it) — an evergreen and familiar brand built around not just video games, but theme parks, movies, and merchandising up the wazoo — is, in part, a risk avoidance strategy to weather any storms in its console hardware business. You can't just put all your eggs in one hybrid basket and rely on every single console to be a stonking success.

[sharks are] always circling, whether there's blood in the water or not. That's just business.

Ultimately, as Spencer referenced in his email, Nintendo's cash reserves are substantial and the company would need to produce several Wii Us in a row before it would be in any financial danger. Yes, the sharks would be circling, but if this email reveals anything, it's that they're always circling, whether there's blood in the water or not. That's just business.

Could Microsoft make a move on Nintendo in the future? It's not impossible, but it would involve the Kyoto company stepping on multiple rakes and dealing itself catastrophic financial damage over a decade or more. The ongoing Microsoft/Activision saga demonstrates just how many hurdles big acquisition deals can throw up. Add in competition from other corporations worldwide, from China and the Middle East, and the required chain of events that lead to a Microsoft-owned Nintendo from where we are right now would be...not inconceivable, but far-fetched enough to be farcical. Spencer himself writes that Microsoft is "playing the long game," which is just as well. It'll be a very long game indeed.

Banjo Mario Fight
Image: Nintendo

So no, there's very little for Nintendo loyalists to worry about after seeing these three-year-old emails. If increased cooperation between Microsoft and Nintendo leads to boons like getting Ori and Cuphead on Switch, Banjo in Smash, and — oh, I don't know — Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo Switch Online, perhaps, or a Rare Replay Switch port (now there's a pipedream worth fixating on), Nintendo gamers only stand to gain right now.