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Xbox should absolutely team up with Nintendo at E3 | Opinion

This could be the quietest E3 yet, making it the ideal time for Microsoft and Nintendo to call a truce

If you listen to the whispers circling the games business right now, then you may have heard that Xbox and Nintendo are up to something.

From their Minecraft co-promotion to the recent Switch release of Cuphead, past Nintendo calling Microsoft "friends" during its last PR video. The two have been enjoying a real love-in over the past 12 months.

Microsoft and Nintendo have been matey before, of course. Xbox first-party studio Rare developed numerous Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games, and there was a DS version of Age of Empires. In fact, Nintendo even commissioned Rare to develop Diddy Kong Racing DS back in 2007.

That relationship cooled over the years. In 2008, there was a reported licensing disagreement between the two over a HD remake of the N64 classic GoldenEye 007, and that year's Viva Pińata on DS would be the last Rare game on a Nintendo platform. Around that time, Microsoft would start targeting Nintendo's audience, first through the Newton prototype (effectively the Wii Remote for Xbox 360) and eventually with Kinect.

"The main rumour circling the industry is that certain Microsoft games will soon be coming to Switch - beyond Cuphead and Minecraft"

But that was then. Today, the two find that their respective business strategies are complementary. Nintendo is still focused on hardware, albeit with a bit of mobile mixed in. While Microsoft is becoming less about consoles, and more about reaching all consumers via numerous platforms -- whether that's through software, services or technology.

The main rumour circling the industry (outside of Xbox IP appearing in Super Smash Bros), is that certain Microsoft games will soon be coming to Switch - beyond Cuphead and Minecraft.

The move makes sense. It would enable Microsoft to capitalise on the popularity of the Switch 18 months before the expected launch of new PlayStation and Xbox hardware. And it would potentially offer an additional platform for Xbox Game Pass subscribers to use.

For Nintendo, it offers some potentially significant games to help bolster its third-party release slate. Although Switch has attracted some big supporters, including long-term Nintendo absentees such as Blizzard and Bethesda, the nature of modern development means that the majority of big third-party games are primarily developed for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Nintendo and Microsoft have a close relationship, but rumours abound of an even deeper partnership emerging this year

Nintendo and Microsoft have a close relationship, but rumours abound of an even deeper partnership emerging this year

What isn't clear is whether these rumours are based on genuine insider knowledge, or wishful thinking -- because wouldn't it be cool if a Nintendo executive appeared on stage at an Xbox E3 press conference? Well, it would be cool, but not simply because of the prospect of playing Halo: Master Chief Collection on the go. It would be cool because of the message it would send.

E3 is a funny old show. It represents only a corner of the games market and its relevance as a B2B event waned years ago. But it remains the games industry's biggest single week; a point in time where every media outlet, every gamer, the entire world, is watching.

"Wouldn't it be cool if a Nintendo executive appeared on stage at an Xbox E3 press conference?"

It's an exciting event, but also a competitive one. Video games has always been a cutthroat business, but at E3 this is heightened. "Who won E3?" is a question that never goes away, no matter how many derisory comments are made about it.

It has been the case since E3's inception, when Sony staff would deflate Sega's inflatable Sonic. In the past decade, we've seen Sony compile mocking videos of Xbox over its game sharing policy, and most notably we had EA CEO John Riccitiello remarkably wish the Call of Duty franchise would, "rot from the core."

It can be petty, and this extends to the consumers -- some of them, at least -- who pick their sides and argue across forums and social media about why their specific gaming preference is better than the other.

So wouldn't it be special if this year's E3 is remembered not for being the one Sony missed, or the quiet one before the next-gen console battle can start properly... but as one that united gamers. An E3 that continued the theme from last year's The Game Awards, where Nintendo, Xbox and Sony all shared the same stage.

It may be a temporary reprieve, of course. Soon enough Google and Xbox will be undermining each other over cloud gaming, and Sony will be telling the world that PlayStation 5 is better than anything its competitors can throw up.

But it would still be nice, even if it's just for one year, to see E3 become a true celebration, rather than a battleground.

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Latest comments (9)

Bob Johnson Studying graphics design, Northern Arizona University2 months ago
While it's possible MS goes out of their way to make a Halo Master Collection for Switch.....my guess is the rumors of MS games coming to Switch coincide with the upcoming announcement of the MS cloud gaming service. If I had to bet and had to choose between local and cloud then I would bet on MS games coming to Switch through the cloud and not as a localized product.

The Switch is the perfect platform for MS's cloud service.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Bob Johnson on 29th April 2019 10:08pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 months ago
MS will put the Cupheads, the Oris, aka “Nintendo games” on there natively. And yes, this is also so they can launch their service

Microsoft understands everything Nintendo doesn’t. DeNA has developed the barest bones kludged solution (IF rumor is to be believed, Nintendo forgot to save cycles and memory for online functions in their rush to get the switch out, and isn’t interested in spending money to test and fix the older games they break).

This is the real interesting question

NVIDIA made the Switch deal to get back into the console game, and to move Rebadged shields. But they’re also running Nintendo games in their streaming service in China, obviously something they’d love to do elsewhere

Pure speculation coming

Might Microsoft have made a deal for Nintendo games, be it on Xbox Streaming or on a separate Nintendo service sitting on their infrastructure?

Their new API adds Live functionality to pretty much any game, might they be looking to get Nintendo to dump DeNA and just use Live? While I don’t see that necessarily happening on Nintendo proper games, I definitely see it potentially happening on third parties.

Microsoft allegedly made some noises about buying Nintendo years ago. Whether or not they were ever real, I don’t think Nintendo would ever sell to or merge with them (or even Sony. Disney, Apple, Universal are the only ones I could ever see happening at all)

It would be quite the coup if any permutation of this were to happen. Agreee with Bob that this helps plug their mobile issue. I know I might get one for travel just for xcloud at the right price
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Bob Johnson Studying graphics design, Northern Arizona University2 months ago
Nintendo games won't appear on the MS cloud. Why would they put their games in the cloud and not on the X1 and PS4 itself? It doesn't make sense from Nintendo's point of view.

I don't think Nintendo has to make a deal with MS to get MS games on the Switch through the cloud. MS wants to sell their cloud service. They are the ones who would want to put it on the Switch. The only negotiations would be what NIntendo's cut would be for cloud service games. MS likely would try to argue for a discount on the royalty rate given the nature and expense of cloud gaming. Nintendo might grant such a thing to give their system access to additional AAA game coverage that it doesn't have and can't otherwise have.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bob Johnson on 29th April 2019 10:34pm

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Show all comments (9)
Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 months ago
" In 2008, there was a reported licensing disagreement between the two over a HD remake of the N64 classic GoldenEye 007"

I still remember this and to this day I'm not sure where to put the most blame: on Nintendo for saying no or on Microsoft for asking them in the first place (Nintendo did not own the rights to make 007 games or for publishing Rare games, which is why Perfect Dark eventually released on the 360). Still, if that game popped up as one of the fruits of their labor it would be a nice long overdue surprise.

As for them teaming up, it's a nice thought but totally unnecessary on Microsoft's part. They already stated they have a big show planned , including new game, hardware and streaming announcements. Their goal is for people to look back on this as a really big E3 show for them and not because one of the console makers was absent. And so far things are pointing in that direction. I wouldn't be adverse to Nintendo making an appearance at Microsoft's E3 show but it seems very unlikely.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 months ago
Nintendo can close a gap in Microsoft's lineup for sure.
A gap Microsoft can very well close themselves since they operate not one closed gaming platform (Xbox) but a second open one (Windows) as well. They can disrupt the status quo on a whim.

But which gap does Microsoft close for Nintendo?
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 months ago
@Bob

Because they can run a server farm complete with old console , do essentially zero work, and have their games accessible to everyone on a platform they solely control. All of this is 100% Nintendo’s MO when it comes to the internet

@Paul

Nintendo owns the distribution rights to the game. Microsoft owns the game, and at the time, Activiison owned the 007 license

As I was told, there was a condition in the contract that required feature sets across both platforms to be identical. Nintendo objected to Xbox Live being far more robust, and basically wanted it built for the Wii. They were told that that wasn’t happening so they took their ball and went home. Now I’m sure there’s more sides, nuance etc, but that was the story making the rounds.

I definitely believe it may make a new appearance, especially with a new Bond entering production and no one currently having the license. They’re going to want something out there
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 months ago
I can see a MS exec showing up in the Nintendo video presentation before I see a Nintendo exec on the MS media briefing presentation. Why? Because Nintendo is doing just fine and we are seeing MS games on Nintendo hardware right now, not the other way around.

It's also a philosophical difference as noted in the article. MS is moving away from the hardware walled garden and into software distribution to all gardens. Nintendo functions around its walled garden (just look at the outsourced effort for their mobile phone game program) and isn't one to relinquish control over their games and how/where they are played. Their software is designed for their hardware.

Can they team up for an E3 showing? Absolutely. But I definitely see it as an expansion of MS into the Nintendo platform (Live, games, etc...) rather than Nintendo expanding onto MS platforms and services.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 2 months ago
Well, I’ve always objected to the “Nintendo games need Nintendo hardware”

Their hardware is so behind the curve for the last 20 years that it really doesn’t matter. Any game not specifically designed around the joycons/wiimote or some other gimmick for core functionality is easily ported

That’s why I said XCloud could allow Nintendo to run their own service on the same infrastructure. They control the experience, so that would certainly allow its expansion to other platforms
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments2 months ago
Individual MS titles on switch seems the most likely side of this for the foreseeable. MS can pick which titles will benefit from being on a portable console (how they presumably see the switch complementing the xbox and PC), and I doubt Nintendo will be keen on a full streaming client on switch yet, thereby handing over gatekeeping.

They're already doing individual streamed titles in japan with capcom - that might be a business model they'd be open to from MS?
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