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Crackle’s US-only Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story series debuted on Monday, featuring a detailed recount of Nintendo’s 131-year history, with insight from industry figures such as former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and EA founder Trip Hawkins.
Spencer is arguably the most notable person from a competing company to appear in the six-hour series, and as he has become known for, the head of Xbox shares many complimentary comments about Nintendo and how its past consoles have inspired him.
In the documentary, Spencer says Nintendo’s past consoles have shown him that Xbox needs to have unique aspects to its platforms, rather than “just [being] great at what others are doing”.
“The role that Nintendo has played in making gaming a safe and inviting family experience, while also bringing core game experiences to their platform, I think has been foundational to the industry that we have today,” he says.
“I don’t think you can decouple the video game industry from Nintendo, I think they’re intrinsically tied.”
The exec adds in another segment: “The thing that I look at is, how many people are coming into gaming because of their first experience on a Nintendo platform?
“I’ve always said that I think the health of Nintendo is something that we should cherish as an industry, and watching them grow and innovate is both great for us as an industry, but also inspiration for us at Xbox to do better.”
Reflecting on the Nintendo Wii – which released when Spencer was general manager of Microsoft Game Studios EMEA – Spencer said it gave the Xbox team “a jolt” on the importance of unique selling points.
“I remember seeing it and I’ll tell you, I could have never designed the Wii… I don’t have that in me,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m not brave enough or whatever as a platform holder now to go and do something as just completely different, and to be just so all-in on a new paradigm was just amazing to see.
“It gave us a real jolt that we can’t just be great at what others are doing, we have to have to some unique things that are important for our platform, and the Wii was just a perfect example of that.”
Touching on the Wii’s predecessor, the compatively poor-selling GameCube, Spencer says: “I don’t know their internal design process and how they revolve and iterate on top of what they learn, but clearly they came out of that with a lot of momentum on the next thing they did.”
And it’s likely fair to say the exec is not a big fan of Nintendo 64, or at least its unique three-pronged controller. “I still don’t understand the controller, just being honest,” he admits. “I guess it’s multiple controllers in one, but you needed three hands to play that!”
Earlier this year, a former Microsoft executive recalled how Nintendo “laughed their asses off” when approached by Microsoft regarding a possible buyout 20 years ago.
“The first company we reached out to buy was EA. They said, ‘No, thanks,’ and then Nintendo,” recalled Microsoft’s then head of business development, Bob McBreen.
“Steve made us go meet with Nintendo to see if they would consider being acquired,” added Kevin Bachus, Xbox’s then director of third-party relations. “They just laughed their asses off. Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you. That was kind of how that meeting went.”