Microsoft Was Moments Away from Buying Square in '99|You Should Read This New Making of Xbox Book

Dancrane212

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,296
Give me a moment before I get to the main crux of the title. I promise I'll deliver.

Last year I saw that there were two upcoming books, Game of X v.1 and 2, from Rusel Demaria (who you might recall wrote some of the supplemental material tied to the X-Wing/Tie Fighter games along with founding Prima Guides) about the Xbox and DirectX (volumes 1/2 respectively). I'm a big fan of Dean Takahashi's "Unlocking the Xbox" book that detailed the making of that console so getting a new book about that time, now over a decade later so interviewees could be more open, was very appealing.

Anywho, fast forward to last week where I was pretty surprised to see that both volumes had actually released last year; I ordered myself a copy of the first volume and decided to look around online and see what folk thought of it. Thing is, the only discussion point I saw on the book was a VentureBeat article published on New Years Eve by Dean Takahashi about the book. The article made the book sound pretty exciting but I was still a bit curious at it's complete lack of reception.

Now that I have the book in my hands I'm blown away at its contents just 80 pages in. You have stuff in there that no one has talked about before like the Square deal (OK, Google shows one person teasing it back on GAF) or the meeting Bill Gates had with the chairman/CEO of CSK (owner of Sega), Isao Okawa where Okawa pitched Microsoft on working on a "Dreamcast 2 type thing" instead of the Xbox. Isao Okawa, dying of cancer, wanted to "leave another mark, even posthumously, on technology and Japan" and was willing to go all in on a collaboration. You even get how Nintendo, no matter how incredibly favorable a collaborative deal was, wouldn't work with MIcrosoft for how it would look like they "lost" to them.

Then there's the internal MIcrosoft information like the troubles of merging FASA into MIcrosoft, how the MS Dreamcast team pitched against the Xbox, why Dell turned down an OEM Xbox, Epic pushing hard for the Xbox to use a mouse/keyboard and why that GDC console was in the shape of an X. Again, that's all just a couple things mentioned in the early pages of the book.

The book also includes official charts, powerpoint slides from things like meetings with Bill Gates, early architecture designs and roadmaps, emails from J Allard trying to calm any concerns from Gates and Balmer before the "massacre" of a final meeting that greenlit the Xbox, memos from marketing companies on research on the "X-box" name vs 11-X (along with a bunch of other unused names). All that's just from what I've read so far and by flipping through the nearly 200+ page appendix.

It is insane to me that this book has gotten essentially no coverage or discussion online. If you are at all interested in games I really, really encourage you to pick this up. There's a kindle and physical release on Amazonif you're interested (Canada here). I don't mean to rant and rave but it's incredible stuff for anyone remotely interested in this industry.
_____________

Anyways, to deliver on that title's bait. As mentioned above in 1999 Microsoft had been courting companies for acquisition and SquareSoft came up primarily for getting the Final Fantasy IP. It got to the point, according to Bob McBreen, at the final meeting where the deal was to be signed the CEO of Square stood up and said that "before we sign, our banker would like to say something" to which said banker announced "we want more money" and "...just about doubled the price".

Square's banker explained that the valuation done had some errors. When asked what was missed in the valuation by Microsoft's representatives they were told "You missed that we're worth more money. We want more money". Rick Thompson recalled that "They wanted something like one and a half billion dollars for half of the company" which was more than what Microsoft was willing to spend so both parties walked from the deal.


What a world that would have been, eh?






*I have no relation to Rusel Demaria or these books. I just think it is, at least from what I've read, something that absolutely deserves the attention it hasn't gotten.*
 
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Dervius

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,469
MK | UK
Well god damn.

Makes you wonder what othe rmajor deals may have nearly happened behind the scenes.

I'll give tht book a read, cheers OP.
 

J_Viper

Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,688
I gotta check this out because the OG Xbox is still my favorite console

Thanks for the heads up OP!
 

Dr. Caroll

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
8,111
If Microsoft had taken control of Square, we probably wouldn't have had to endure so many years of crappy PC ports from the company. The Dreamcast 2 vs Xbox thing is pretty interesting, although the Xbox was arguably a Dreamcast successor regardless, particularly in its controller design.
 

Barrel Cannon

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
5,296
Gonna check that book to skim through. It' always interesting to look at the past. Especially just before the tech bubble burst. Square was full of themselves then thinking they were gonna revolutionise with spirits within
 

Rychu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,414
Utah, USA
Final Fantasy would have probably lived up to its name if Microsoft had bought it.

Thanks for the recommendation OP.
It wouldn’t of been given the chance to experiment with it though. Each Final Fantasy game is different than the previous one in terms of gameplay, style, setting, etc. and Microsoft wouldn’t give them as much freedom with it and have them stick to a formula I think.
 

Spyder_Monkey

Member
Oct 25, 2017
10,480
Considering how unsuccessful Xbox was in Japan even when they did push Japanese-friendly games, this would've destroyed Square.
 

Skel1ingt0n

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,472
I adore the original Xbox - possibly my favorite console ever as it was unquestionably more powerful and more future-proof than its competitors, AND it has a phenomenal library of both Japanese and western exclusives. PLUS(!) it gave me KOTOR, my favorite game of all time.

I’ll definitely give this a read. Thanks for the heads up!
 
OP
OP
Dancrane212

Dancrane212

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,296
I gotta check this out because the OG Xbox is still my favorite console

Thanks for the heads up OP!
It's amazing.

Reading J Allard's, all lower case, emails to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer to "pre disaster" the meeting where Bill Gates chewed everyone up "this is a fucking insult to everything I've done at this company" is stuff I never expected to read.
 

Dr. Caroll

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
8,111
Each Final Fantasy game is different than the previous one in terms of gameplay, style, setting, etc. and Microsoft wouldn’t give them as much freedom with it and have them stick to a formula I think.
Micro-"Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts"-soft would have forced them to stick to a formula?
 

Wolfman

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,664
God... that would have been one of the worst things to happen to the industry if it had gone through. Square would be long dead at this point if it had.

Sounds like fascinating stuff, I liked Takahashi's book a lot so I'll order this now I think.

Cheers for the heads up, OP.
 

Acquiescence

Member
Oct 26, 2017
7,125
Lake Titicaca
I'm... really glad that didn't happen. To put it lightly.

Geez, '99. That was right in the midst of the golden age of Final Fantasy as well. Somebody make that banker a saint!
 

Dr. Caroll

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
8,111
Considering how MS has treated Japanese companies over the years, i dont even want to imagine such a scenario
Elaborate? MS have long been a tone-deaf bull in a chinashop when dealing with non-American companies, but I can't think of any examples of Microsoft mistreating Japanese developers. (Especially not compared to the way Japanese companies have historically mistreated their non-Japanese developers.)
 

makonero

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,275
The Square news isn't as interesting to me as the Nintendo anecdote.

Good on Nintendo. It may have been a petty reason, but partnering with Microsoft would have been the end of weird Nintendo forever.
 
OP
OP
Dancrane212

Dancrane212

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,296
Steve Ballmer was literally at a dinner celebrating the deal the night before.

Thanks OP, I'm definitely in on this and aim to read it soon.

You seem to be someone that's familiar with other books that document the industry's history, so I wonder, is there a definitive book that covers the Dreamcast or at least a book on Sega's history containing extensive coverage on the Dreamcast era?
Unfortunately not that I know of. You have a lot of interviews done by folk who were at SEGA of America like Peter Moore and Bernie Stolar but nothing like that for the Dreamcast era.
 

clay_ghost

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,339
Wow. History will be changed. Crystal Chronicles will never have been released. Dreamcast 2 will be interesting too and we will likely have old Sega IPs for that console.
 

Argot

Member
Oct 29, 2017
1,147
How many major plays did Microsoft try to make on the lead up to the Xbox? I've heard stuff about them looking into buying Sega and Nintendo, was there any major video game company they weren't trying to buy back then? At least they ended up with Rare.
 
OP
OP
Dancrane212

Dancrane212

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,296
The Square news isn't as interesting to me as the Nintendo anecdote.

Good on Nintendo. It may have been a petty reason, but partnering with Microsoft would have been the end of weird Nintendo forever.
By the sounds of it MIcrosoft really wanted to work with them. Even with a buyout off the table Microsoft was willing to give NIntendo a certain number of royalty free games published per year and a $9 rate after that.

Nintendo was, at least early on, actually interested in some form of partnership too. Nintendo spent "two and a half days" working with the best MS engineers. When the Xbox was announced "they (Nintendo) knew everything about the technical details" of the console from those meetings.
 

Rychu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,414
Utah, USA
Micro-"Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts"-soft would have forced them to stick to a formula?
And after that game failed, Microsoft forced Rare to work on avatars and Kinect from 2008-2015. This is their first game that isn’t avatar or Kinect related releasing in a decade. While Final Fantasy may have had a lot of successes, it has also had a lot of failures and Microsoft is simply a “safe” company.
 

Inuhanyou

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
14,214
New Jersey
Why? It's not hard to imagine that their treatment of Japanese companies would be different if they bought someone like Square.
Elaborate? MS have long been a tone-deaf bull in a chinashop when dealing with non-American companies, but I can't think of any examples of Microsoft mistreating Japanese developers. (Especially not compared to the way Japanese companies have historically mistreated their non-Japanese developers.)
Level 5, Platinum, statements from nippon ichi, what they did to phantom dust, ect...in addition to the attitude fostered by both Japan and MS at that time period especially,

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-12-13-why-xbox-failed-in-japan

Its my view that nothing good would have come from MS buying Square. I'm not sure why either of you have an issue with that claim. Its pretty sensible as a viewpoint.
 

Defuser

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,317
Jebus, Microsoft tries to buy everything. I'm not surprised if a few a years later I will hear info about MS tries to buy Capcom during the PSP /3DS era because of Monster Hunter doing gangbusters.
 

Remo Williams

Self-requested ban
Banned
Jan 13, 2018
4,769
It's amazing.

Reading J Allard's, all lower case, emails to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer to "pre disaster" the meeting where Bill Gates chewed everyone up "this is a fucking insult to everything I've done at this company" is stuff I never expected to read.
Thanks for the heads-up, this sounds right up my alley. By the way, I see that there are three editions of the books, Kindle, black and white paperback, and color paperback. Which one do you have, and if it's one of the paperbacks, would you say that the binding is of decent quality? I'm thinking about getting the color edition, but if it's mostly text and low quality images or it has poor binding, I'll go for the cheaper one.

And by the way, if anyone can recommend good books on the history of PlayStation, please do. I recently bought and read Revolutionaries at Sony, which was good, but very old. Apart from the PlayStation Anthology, I couldn't find anything else that didn't look like low effort trash.
 
OP
OP
Dancrane212

Dancrane212

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,296
Thanks for the heads-up, this sounds right up my alley. By the way, I see that there are three editions of the books, Kindle, black and white paperback, and color paperback. Which one do you have, and if it's one of the paperbacks, would you say that the binding is of decent quality? I'm thinking about getting the color edition, but if it's mostly text and low quality images or it has poor binding, I'll go for the cheaper one.

And by the way, if anyone can recommend good books on the history of PlayStation, please do. I recently bought and read Revolutionaries at Sony, which was good, but very old. Apart from the PlayStation Anthology, I couldn't find anything else that didn't look like low effort trash.
I got the black and white copy. You have some photos from tradeshows and of the dev team but I don't think you're missing much without color.

Feels as good as any other book I've gotten.
 

jayu26

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,212
Elaborate? MS have long been a tone-deaf bull in a chinashop when dealing with non-American companies, but I can't think of any examples of Microsoft mistreating Japanese developers. (Especially not compared to the way Japanese companies have historically mistreated their non-Japanese developers.)
Guys from Level 5 would have a good laugh at this post.
 

jelly

Member
Oct 26, 2017
12,575
It's amazing how keen Microsoft were to get a foothold but still had the sense to walk away. Another thing, they really go straight for the shit hot thing of the time to get a leg up. Kinda see that with Minecraft, COD, PUBG etc.
 

Chaserjoey

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,232
Thank you so much Mr. Banker. I doubt I would have found many of the games I love from Square Enix if they were a Microsoft company.
 

clay_ghost

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,339
By the sounds of it MIcrosoft really wanted to work with them. Even with a buyout off the table Microsoft was willing to give NIntendo a certain number of royalty free games published per year and a $9 rate after that.

Nintendo was, at least early on, actually interested in some form of partnership too. Nintendo spent "two and a half days" working with the best MS engineers. When the Xbox was announced "they (Nintendo) knew everything about the technical details" of the console from those meetings.
Sounds to me like Nintendo Knew what they were doing, open corporate espionage.
 

signal

Member
Oct 28, 2017
21,259
Its my view that nothing good would have come from MS buying Square. I'm not sure why either of you have an issue with that claim. Its pretty sensible as a viewpoint.
Because it's not unreasonable to assume that MS' attitude towards Japan and Japanese studios would change if they bought one of the largest Japanese studios.