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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 Piñata 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

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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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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