Microsoft once had plans to buy Sega, court documents show

microsoft sega

Internal documents appear to show that Microsoft came close to buying Sega in 2020, and had numerous other big-name studios on a list of potential acquisitions.


As Microsoft’s plans to acquire Activision Blizzard are being picked apart in a US court, all kinds of internal documents from the company’s recent history are emerging in the process.

One eye-catching piece of information that has emerged from the FTC-Microsoft legal battle so far: about three years ago, Microsoft had drawn up a lengthy list of companies it could potentially acquire – and among the biggest names on that list were Sega, Bungie, and Niantic.

The documents were submitted as evidence in the FTC-Microsoft trial, and were brought to our attention by The Verge. One document shows a list of companies along with their assets and the gap they’d fill in Microsoft’s business post-acquisition; developer Super Giant, for example, has its 2020 breakout hit Hades listed among its assets, and was thought to be the kind of company that could expand Xbox’s audience.

Meanwhile, an email written by Microsoft general manager David Hampton, and sent several bosses at the firm – including Xbox head Phil Spencer – appears to show that an acquisition of Sega came particularly close to happening. Headed with the subject line, “Request for Strategy Approval: Sega”, Hampton lays out the benefits of buying the veteran firm.

“We believe that Sega has built a well-balanced portfolio of games across segments with global geographic appeal,” Hampton wrote, “and will help us accelerate Xbox Game Pass both on and off-console.”

The same email, dated November 2020, also mentions one of the “complexities” that would have to be overcome should an acquisition be made – including that Sega is owned by Japanese holding company, Sega Sammy.

Exactly why the deal never happened hasn’t been explained, nor is it clear how close any of the other numerous studios on Microsoft’s hit list came to being acquired.

One detail that has emerged, though, is just how much Microsoft spent on acquiring British studio, Ninja Theory – the team behind the upcoming Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. Again, according to an internal email, the developer was snapped up in 2018 for $117 million.

Ordinarily, that would sound like a gargantuan amount of money – but even that sum is dwarfed by how much the Activision Blizzard deal is worth if it happens – a reported $69 billion. No wonder Microsoft’s already putting its prices up.

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