Despite being the head of Xbox it looks like Phil Spencer is, like most of us, a Nintendo fan too. In fact, he's a big enough fan that leaked emails revealed he wanted to be the man to unite the two gaming giants.
In the 2020 emails, Spencer describes the Switch manufacturer as "THE prime asset for us in Gaming." and that if any US company had a chance with Nintendo we (Microsoft) are probably in the best position."
Considering Microsoft's acquisitions of Bethesda and the $69 billion dollar merger with Activision Blizzard, it's clear that the company isn't afraid of making big moves, but Nintendo is at another level still. Nintendo is of course a hardware rival for Microsoft, but it is also the most storied and historic name in gaming, having been around since 1889 and producing consoles since the NES in 1983.
Spencer however wouldn't plan on a successor to the Switch it seems. In the same email, he describes how it's taking "a long time for Nintendo to see that their future exists off of their own hardware."
I have to admit having Mario, Pokemon and Zelda on the best gaming laptops (and Xbox consoles) sounds like a ray-tracing dream and would circumvent the Switch's chronic lack of power. It could also massively boost the appeal of Game Pass. The Xbox Series X (and PS5) are great platforms for third-party titles but Nintendo's own exclusives are bona fide system sellers. Some of the best games out there, on more powerful hardware is a no-brainer, but it also would be just plain wrong.
Sony and Microsoft do a good job of delivering performance in a traditional console package, but Nintendo has always been the biggest innovator in the gaming industry. The Game Boy, Wii, DS, 3DS and Switch have all had massive impacts on the gaming landscape. As much as Microsoft might indulge its creativity, Nintendo has always been defined by its unique take on things. Do you really think that Microsoft would make a Plumber stomping on turtles become the most recognisable gaming character in the world? Microsoft has great gaming experiences but they are far more iterative than revolutionary. Just look at Starfield, the big Xbox exclusive of the year. It's a whole host of fun, but essentially just a re-skinned Fallout title.
You only need to see last week's Nintendo Direct for the unique imagination the company has. Bringing back a popular racing franchise for the first time in 20 years. as a battle royale, for example is something no one else would have thought of.
Ultimately, I think of Xbox acquiring Nintendo as a bit like if they announced a brand new series of Friends, or any other classic show, written by ChatGPT. In the short term, it would be exciting and fun to see our favourite characters in 4K HD, but eventually, we would realise it's just not the same anymore.