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What if Nintendo Teamed Up With Microsoft to Take on Sony?

Scott Steinberg

The reality: In this corner, we have Nintendo, an industry pillar that has sold nearly 2 billion games globally since 1983, not to mention more than 172 million Game Boy handhelds. And in this corner, we have Microsoft—traditionally a PC publisher—which laced up for the console wars in 2001 with the launch of its Xbox. Since then, both companies have vied for a distant second place behind Sony, whose PlayStation 2 is a runaway juggernaut. Say, did somebody just holler, “Tag team?”

The alternate reality: “Microsoft and Nintendo versus Sony would be a clash of titans,” says Schelley Olhava, program manager for game-industry research firm IDC. Just one teensy problem: “Exciting as it sounds, the partnership would likely fail,” she says. Despite the wellspring of capital, technological resources, and creative synergy such an alliance would produce, Olhava asserts, clashes between corporate cultures would end the honeymoon fast. Neither firm appears capable of shipping a product they could agree on. Just look at Microsoft’s insistence on building a system with online capabilities out of the box, as opposed to Nintendo’s cold-shoulder approach. They would also need to agree to split up their markets on each side of the Pacific. “If Nintendo handled the hardware in the Japanese market and Microsoft handled it in the U.S., and they both published games under their own labels, they could indeed do well,” says Steven Kent, author of The Ultimate History of Video Games. “This would also open Nintendo’s handheld market for Microsoft to port some of its titles [to].”

But the biggest issue is brand identification—reconciling Nintendo’s family-friendly image with Xbox’s hardcore-enthusiast targeted approach would prove a difficult task. But if they could pull it off...boy oh boy. “A Microsoft platform with Nintendo backing should capture two completely separate demographics in the U.S.,” says Kent. “It would be both kid friendly and chic—assuming it was marketed properly.” In this alternate reality, Sony execs are sweating.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.





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