Microsoft Nintendo relationship Xbox Series X Nintendo Switch Game Pass Ultimate Xbox One Phil Spencer Doug Bowser

Rivalries between companies in the video game industry have been around since its inception. The most iconic one would probably be the Sega versus Nintendo debacle. Everyone remembers or has heard of, “Sega does what Nintendon’t.” Marketing teams were relentless back in those days, often going for tactics that one might consider unethical. The climate has changed drastically, with things like cross-play becoming more widely accepted. Some developers have become closer as a result, including the likes of Nintendo and Microsoft.

The strange part about this relationship is how both companies seem to downplay their involvement with one another. Recent interviews with Xbox boss Phil Spencer have included quotes where he believes that their current approach to Nintendo Switch “doesn’t feel sustainable.” It seems like Spencer changes his opinions on Switch quite frequently. The main reason for this is probably Xbox Game Pass and other parts of their ecosystem.

Microsoft Nintendo relationship Xbox Series X Nintendo Switch Game Pass Ultimate Xbox One Phil Spencer Doug Bowser

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox

Microsoft is here!

Microsoft’s subscription service has been extremely successful with over 15 million subscribers. Xbox Game Pass allows consumers to download Microsoft’s exclusive library of games day one, as well as a varied lineup of third-party titles. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s support of Nintendo Switch so far has included ports of Cuphead, Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. It’s also enabled cross-platform play and achievements for Minecraft and its spin-off, Minecraft Dungeons. It doesn’t end there either, as Microsoft greenlit support for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with Banjo & Kazooie and Steve from Minecraft becoming playable fighters.

It was quite surreal when Masahiro Sakurai told Smash Bros. fans to go ahead and play Banjo-Kazooie on Xbox One, and it resulted in one of the more interesting fighter showcases.

All of this has obviously got fans hankering for more, and therefore Phil Spencer has had to field a lot of questions on the subject. In an interview that touched upon Microsoft’s relationship with Nintendo, Spencer stated, ‘‘In order to really support (Switch), I would want a full Xbox ecosystem somewhere. And that probably means things like Live and Game Pass and stuff.’’ Nintendo would probably be somewhat against that idea, so that might be a reason why it has given nothing but radio silence about their relationship.

Nintendo is a strange company. If you’re a Nintendo fan, that is probably obvious. Although, despite Nintendo not really commenting on its involvement with Microsoft, we do know that they’re on friendly terms at least. More recently we saw Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser congratulate Microsoft and Spencer for the launch of the Xbox Series X | S. What a weird timeline we live in!

A missed opportunity

As a fan of all things gaming, I strongly believe that releasing games on more than one platform is a good thing. Exclusivity has become a rabbit hole that most companies have dug themselves into. Nintendo has become more open to releasing its library onto other devices through mobile gaming. Then there’s Microsoft, which is probably the most open company when it comes to multiplatform games. The current relationship that the duo has would draw in fans from each platform if further expanded upon. For them not to dig deeper into this results in a huge missed opportunity to deliver something the industry has never really seen before.

Microsoft Nintendo relationship Xbox Series X Nintendo Switch Game Pass Ultimate Xbox One Phil Spencer Doug Bowser

Imagine someone asking what you’re playing on the Switch, and you reply with “Halo: The Master Chief Collection.” That would be a strange reality — but one that would bring Xbox players over to the Switch and vice versa. Xbox Games Pass could realistically operate on the platform, with some added support from the big N. Perhaps not all titles would be able to make their way over to the platform due to the vastly different hardware specifications, but streaming technology makes a lot possible. At the least, Microsoft has expanded Game Pass to include a variety of indie games that would be perfect for an “Xbox Game Pass for Nintendo Switch” deal.

This would obviously mean that an app or some kind of update to the Nintendo eShop would be required. My pitch is to do something similar to how Microsoft is doing it on its own hardware. Loading up the Microsoft Store brings up a hub for Game Pass and a list of available games. The user is then able to either download the game with Game Pass or purchase it for the regular price. A Nintendo Switch counterpart to this would act in a similar fashion, with a hub being available on the eShop side bar alongside Nintendo Switch Online.

Granted, the Nintendo-Microsoft relationship has often felt one-sided in Nintendo’s favor, and that wouldn’t necessarily change with the addition of Game Pass on Switch. Perhaps Nintendo could return the favor with some digital offerings of its own, sharing some Switch Online perks with the Xbox platform? That is, of course, a long shot though.

Is the relationship likely to change?

The short answer is probably no. Microsoft and Nintendo are both businesses at the end of the day, so they probably want to focus on their own products. The current state of their relationship has still provided Switch owners with a variety of exciting content, so it is not all bad. Microsoft has successfully enabled Xbox Live support on Minecraft, so it’s clear that it has the ability to grow its ecosystem on Nintendo Switch. I still believe that there is a ton of untapped potential for further collaboration, but all we can do is dream of what could be. What would you like to see from Microsoft and Nintendo’s relationship?

Jaimie Ditchfield
Freelance Writer. Work seen on Zelda Universe and BackToTheGaming. Studied Games Journalism and PR for three years, and is relentless at spreading his love for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The chances are you'll also hear him scream Persona.

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