If the video game industry operated like a high school, there would be a lot of hallway talk going on about how Microsoft and Nintendo have been making eyes at each other as of late.
It started with Minecraft. While it’s no surprise that Minecraft is available on Switch – it was already one of the most popular games ever before Microsoft bought the property – it was a bit surprising when Microsoft announced that Switch players would be able to access assets in the game that were previously exclusive to the Microsoft brand. That’s a feature that Microsoft didn’t offer to Sony and the PlayStation 4. At the time, it was written-off as a simple courtesy that Microsoft extended because Nintendo allowed for cross-platform play.
Since then, things have gotten a bit more interesting. Nintendo recently revealed that the Switch will receive a remastered version of Mark of the Ninja. Previously, Mark of the Ninja was a Microsoft published Xbox 360/PC exclusive title. That’s not the biggest game in the Microsoft arsenal, but it was still an Xbox exclusive. Now, Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is talking about letting Nintendo use Microsoft owned characters in the next Smash Bros. game.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think that Microsoft and Nintendo have formed a kind of informal alliance. The may have. The question is: “Would such an alliance be good for gaming?”
Before you answer that question, you must first realize why this alliance would benefit both parties. For Nintendo, the answer is simple. They get access to more games and a greater variety of properties. There’s no company in the world that would turn down a closer relationship with Microsoft’s gaming war chest.
The way this alliance benefits Microsoft is a bit more complicated but far more interesting. First off, they get to sell more of their games across more platforms. They’ve already expressed an interest in doing just that during a recent press conference. However, this is about more than just mere sales. A Microsoft/Nintendo alliance would also give Microsoft the kind of partner in the East that they’ve never had before. More importantly, it would allow them to partner with a platform – the Nintendo Switch – that they probably don’t see as a direct competitor to the Xbox One brand. At least not in the same way that the similar PlayStation is an Xbox competitor.
That last part is the kicker here. If you’re a Microsoft fan or a Switch owner, you’ve got no reason to complain about this potential partnership. However, a Microsoft/Nintendo alliance – even a minimal one – would post a direct threat to Sony who is currently dominating the console market but is experiencing some wider company financial concerns.
Yet…it’s hard to think of this as a bad thing. Even in some wild fantasy world where we see big name Microsoft games on the Nintendo Switch, there relatively little chance that this partnership can sink Sony or other major competitors. Sony still has a huge market share and a ton of exclusive titles. Instead, a continued alliance between Microsoft and Nintendo might only help to bolster the status of both companies, allow more gamers to experience more types of games, and bridge some gaps between East and West gaming markets that have been hard to fill.
Is a Microsoft/Nintendo partnership good for gaming? It can be, and we might just be lucky enough to find out exactly how it will work.