Is that between Microsoft and Nintendo a possible marriage?

Is that between Microsoft and Nintendo a possible marriage?

On March 23, 2021, once received the antitrust blessing, Microsoft publicly welcomed Bethesda into the Xbox Game Studios cauldron, marking on the calendar the incipit of what promises to be one of the most incisive acquisitions of all time.

Valued at over seven billion dollars, the Maryland studio represents an irreplaceable pawn in the chess game born around Game Pass, a service that does not simply have the task of ferrying the Xbox ecosystem but also and above all that to annihilate the "real" competitors of the Redmond company, namely Luna from Amazon and Stadia from Google.

The event conceived by Phil Spencer, as well as for the staging of a celebration of the house behind Fallout and Skyrim, will be remembered for a particular phrase uttered by the Xbox head. "Obviously I can't say that any Bethesda title will be exclusive [Xbox], because we know that's not true. There are contractual obligations that we intend to comply with (a possible reference to Deathloop, ed). There are titles that exist on other platforms and we will continue to support them on those platforms (a possible reference to The Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 76, ed.) There are communities of players that we love and that we will continue to invest in, and even in the future there may be legacy and contractual issues that they will have weight ".

'Future titles will be exclusive to the platforms on which Game Pass exists': the meaning of this sentence is still debated. "But", Spencer continued, unleashing a real earthquake on social media, "if you are an Xbox user I want you to know that [this operation] is about creating great exclusive video games to be published on platforms where Game Pass exists; this is it. our purpose is the heart of the partnership we are building ".

Now, the sole interpretation of this speech by Phil Spencer was enough to trigger reactions and counter-reactions, fantasies and analyzes of all kinds. There have been those who have read the announcement of the total exclusivity of works such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls and those who are convinced that these titles are part of the "legacy" mentioned by Spencer; the passage that referred to the "great exclusive video games to be published on platforms on which Game Pass exists" was above all to be discussed.

Is it possible that this particular closure suggests Microsoft's willingness to extend its services to competing platforms?

Obviously it is. Attention, we are by no means saying that we will see Game Pass on other platforms, but Microsoft's willingness to penetrate any hardware market is now quite evident. Just a few months, at the latest a few years, are missing from the fateful moment in which the entire Game Pass library can be played on smartphones and smart TVs, or the globalization of gaming services that the Xbox division has been chasing for at least five years.

The Elder Scrolls VI could be an exclusive or debut on other platforms at 80 euros and sporting the Xbox Game Studios logo. But if it is clear as day that Microsoft wants to reach the maximum number of gamers possible, it is equally clear that platform owners like Sony and Nintendo see the eventual landing of a giant like Game Pass on their shores as a kind of piracy act.

Let's take PlayStation for example. If it would already be disorienting for users to see a future Fallout 5 on PS5 sporting the Xbox Game Studios logo, among other things after having shelled out 80 euros for a title that on other devices costs just the price of the subscription, let alone being on the Home screen the unmistakable Redmond green of the Game Pass maxi-logo, perhaps next to that of PS Now, an application ready to open the gates on hundreds of titles that, obviously, would lose appeal on the banks of the proprietary shop.

It would be an impossible marriage. Despite the social approach, Xbox and PlayStation are natural "enemies", like the Scots and other Scots, two opposing philosophies that, precisely because of this conflict, push each other to give their best in an attempt to win the hearts of the passionate.

But Nintendo, instead? The Nintendo that makes the market alone, that does not care about the competition and that runs on a parallel track with respect to the market trends?

After the operation, Microsoft has inserted practically the entire Bethesda's portfolio. Let's leave aside for a moment the anecdote that has emerged in recent days, the one in which it is said that, faced with the proposal for an acquisition, the executives of Nintendo have laughed in the face of Microsoft's salesmen. Nintendo, today more than ever, would derive a number of immense benefits from an eventual partnership with Microsoft, and it would do so without having to sacrifice even an ounce of its creative identity.

Let's take a small foray into the fabric of the practice . A few months ago we were playing Super Mario 3D All Stars, a small remastered edition of the great three-dimensional Mario classics, and our experience was undermined by a series of little itches. For the tenth time in over twenty years, for example, we have reached the milestone of 120 stars in Peach's Castle, and even after twenty years there is no achievement system capable of unleashing that little adrenaline rush that made the fortune of Sony and Microsoft.

Xbox, well, the achievements invented them, so it could bring its expertise to bear in the blink of an eye. But this is a completely secondary question or rather, it is when compared to the fact that Super Mario 3D All Stars is nothing more than an amalgamation between emulation and upscaling of the original works, an operation that does not bring any substantial improvement to the experience of game. And Microsoft, in this regard, has just patented and put into operation technologies such as Auto-HDR and FPS Boost.

The mere fact of writing "imagine playing Super Mario 64 in HD at 60 frames per second" is more than enough to make our mouth water. Net of some substantial remakes, Nintendo is struggling in the rendering of the remastered editions, and above all in the preservation of its vast catalog of video games. These days the cancellation of the PS3, PS Vita and PSP stores is causing a sensation, and it is clear to everyone that Microsoft is instead putting in place an extraordinary archival work.

Super Mario 3D All Stars is halfway emulation and half upscaling, which is not the best. While achievements are a no brainer and backward compatibility features a welcome extra, the same cannot be said for netcode and services, elements that Nintendo desperately needs to work on. These days Capcom's Monster Hunter Rise has been released exclusively on Switch, and to date there is still no method supported by the house to communicate with the other players in the lobby, since the smartphone app is not compatible with the product .

And it is ironic that, in our case, the hunting group born in the days of World is now forced to chat via an Xbox party rather than rely on the built-in features. But if Monster Hunter Rise, net of the absence of communication, can count on a solid network infrastructure thanks to an ancient but effective system similar to peer-to-peer, the discourse changes by examining other great classics, among which stands out the case of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Two years after its launch, Masahiro Sakurai's fighting masterpiece still offers an online multiplayer experience that makes water on all sides. Between input lag, delays and mostly unstable connections, being able to finish a series of quality games has become a feat bordering on the impossible. And sobering is the fact that Super Smash Bros' competitive scene collapsed following the global pandemic, as the title failed to survive the transition to the online formula, ending up being banned even from the EVO stages. >
Given and considering that Microsoft's technological history could put much more than a patch on the shortcomings of Nintendo, let's go back to the heart of the matter, that is Xbox Game Pass. How would such a service be positioned if it debuted on a hybrid like Switch? For Microsoft, of course, such a prospect would guarantee the most unique and rare opportunity to compete with the portable console market. Furthermore, it would be a decisive step towards the hypothetical conquest of a Japanese public that has always distrusted American houses and that for this very reason is changing its relationship with Sony.

With FPS Boost, Microsoft has managed to bring Super Lucky's Tale, visually close to Nintendo, up to 120fps. And for Nintendo instead? In our opinion, the eventual publication of the Game Pass on Switch would not move the Tokyo home market one iota. The extraordinary success of Switch is closely linked with the creative work of the company, which never misses an opportunity to stand out from the crowd through productions unimaginable on other shores.

If there are weaknesses in the offer, these reside in the shaky consistency of third parties in the long term and in the periods of so-called "content draft", or those months of void that often form between releases of flag titles. The eventual foray of Game Pass, obviously through a refined and resized formula, could wipe out any doubts and effectively refresh the hybrid catalog by injecting hours of content.

It is difficult to imagine commercial partnerships leaving the mentality of "do ut des", remaining convinced that Microsoft expects something in return, anchored to the idea that any collaboration would imply the landing of Nintendo characters on Xbox machines.

The evidence, on the other hand, seems to show that in Redmond they are simply willing to spread their message, and obviously to increase the size of their portfolios. Yes, it would probably be a one-way relationship, but that's something that never scared Microsoft.

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Will we ever see a marriage between Xbox and Nintendo? Maybe not but let us dream. So, does the wedding have to be done? We are well aware that something like this will probably never happen, and even if it did, the formula would certainly be more restrictive than our hypotheses.

But it is a fact that never as at this moment both Microsoft and the Big N could find tons of more than valid reasons to get married, maybe even just to start a stable relationship. For our part, we would be satisfied even if they only had to go out for a coffee.

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