Microsoft and Xbox leadership were discussing the possibility of a “hostile” takeover of Nintendo and the possible acquisition of Steam owner Valve.
Throughout 2022 and 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and other government entities around the globe discussed blocking Microsoft’s acquisition of World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard. This led the two sides into a number of courtrooms, with the discovery portion of the case unearthing loads of top-secret information related to both companies. This information has leaked and it includes revelations ranging from the estimated specs for the next-gen Nintendo Switch to plans for the successor to the Xbox Series X/S consoles.
Perhaps the biggest reveal was about how big Microsoft’s ambitions are within gaming. Included in the court case were emails regarding Microsoft’s desire to buy Steam owner Valve as well as competing console manufacturer Nintendo. Those plans weren’t entirely theoretical, as executives weighed the possibility and methods for either an amicable or hostile takeover.
Are Microsoft and Xbox going to buy Nintendo?
Microsoft is not set to buy out or take over Nintendo and merge it with the Xbox brand, but executives discussed the possibility of a takeover.
“The unfortunate situation is that Nintendo is sitting on a big pile of cash, they have a [board of directors] that until recently has not pushed for further increases in market growth or stock appreciation. I say “until recently” as our former Microsoft board of director member ValueAct has been heavily acquiring shares of Nintendo…It’s likely he will be pushing for more Nintendo stock which could create opportunities for us,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said in an email to two Microsoft marketing executives.
Microsoft unintentionally leaked a slew of documents, files, and information related to its legal battle with the FTC. Included in that were a series of emails from August 2020 sent between leadership in Xbox and Microsoft, including Spencer and Microsoft’s chief marketing officer Chris Capossela. Spencer confirmed their veracity on Twitter:
Spencer discussed the possibility of leveraging those stock acquisitions for a merger between Microsoft and Xbox. He recommended against “hostile action” in terms of a takeover, but said that the company is playing “the long game.” That said, Spencer noted that he and the board of directors were also “fully supportive…if opportunity arises.”
The emails were a reply to Caposella, who discussed possible acquisitions. Caposella’s email was discussing companies that were “willing to sell” such as Minecraft developer Mojang, which Microsoft acquired in 2014. That sentence was bolded and underlined.
Also included in the email regarding Xbox and Nintendo are mentions of possibly doing the same with Valve Software. Valve is the creator of the Steam DRM that enjoys broad usage across PC gaming. It also owns the major multiplayer games Counter-Strike 2 and Dota 2.
The plans for a possible acquisition of Valve are unclear. Spencer references previous correspondences that were not a part of the leak.
Nintendo is a publicly traded company, where a takeover could hypothetically be completed by buying up enough stock. Meanwhile, Valve is a private company. It is unclear how much of Nintendo stock is owned by Microsoft or its partners, or what inroads it has made for a possible takeover of Valve.