Smash Bros ‘Leak’ Hints at Ground-Breaking Microsoft and Nintendo Partnership

The latest Smash Bros Ultimate leak suggests that Banjo-Kazooie will be featured in the Nintendo-published game. If true — and the leak certainly contains a lot of evidence — then this is potentially the beginning of a ground-breaking relationship between Nintendo and Microsoft, two of the “Big Three” console manufacturers in the industry.

The leak surfaced this week, with an individual who reportedly has marketing ties to Smash Bros Ultimate developer Bandai Namco unwittingly sharing a Snapchat image of the game’s full roster. New characters featured in this artwork included Shadow the Hedgehog, Isaac from Golden Sun, and Rare’s platforming hero Banjo-Kazooie.

The Banjo-Kazooie IP was acquired by Microsoft after it purchased Rare back in 2002. The franchise has laid relatively dormant over those years, save for 2008’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, and the appearance of both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie in 2015’s Rare Replay collection. Rare has moved onto other projects with Microsoft, releasing Sea of Thieves earlier this year.

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Given that Microsoft and Rare have done so little with the Banjo license, many have requested that the character should be handed over to Nintendo for an appearance in a Smash Bros game. Smash Bros has seen the likes of Konami’s Solid Snake and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog make appearances, so there is certainly a precedence for non-Nintendo properties to be included in the series.

However, given that Microsoft and Nintendo are direct competitors when it comes to console sales, Microsoft gifting Nintendo access to one of gaming’s most beloved mascots seemed like an unreasonable proposal. While Banjo-Kazooie released on the Nintendo 64, the character’s prior history doesn’t mean much when it comes to business, with Banjo firmly belonging to Rare and Microsoft.

But an encouraging tweet from Xbox boss Phil Spencer suggested that this could well be the case:

It’s not like Smash Bros games roll around frequently. There have only been five since the Nintendo 64 days, so if Phil Spencer really wants Banjo to make an appearance, then chances are this deal would have been struck ahead of Smash Bros Ultimate‘s release. Though the leak should still be taken with a pinch of salt, it’s certainly convincing and has convinced many that Banjo will be included in the upcoming fighter. So what does this mean for Nintendo and Microsoft?

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The companies have already linked up this year for cross-platform play, with them throwing the gauntlet down to Sony in a trailer advertising Minecraft cross-play. Running with the slogan ‘Better Together,’ Microsoft and Nintendo haven’t advertised their partnership since this commercial dropped, though it’s now clear that the companies aren’t opposed to working with one another.

But Microsoft and Nintendo allowing for cross-platform play is one thing, while a Microsoft IP popping up in a Nintendo game is another. This is what would make an appearance from Banjo-Kazooie in Smash Bros Ultimate such a big deal. With Banjo fighting alongside Mario, Bowser, and the like, this would open the door to future game collaborations between Microsoft and Nintendo.

Microsoft allowing Minecraft to be published on other consoles was already a major breakthrough, but this would be further evidence that the company is looking to remove the boundaries between its own properties and its rivals’ consoles. We know Microsoft is looking to go all-in on game streaming with the next Xbox, and he’s previously expressed that he wants to venture out of the Windows confines in order to reach gamers on other devices.

As reported by Nintendo Life:

“Spencer was promoted in September to the role of executive vice president, which means he now reports directly to Chief Executive Satya Nadella rather than Windows boss Terry Myerson. Spencer revealed that his new role gives him more “latitude” to reach gamers on any device, rather than using “gaming to make Windows more successful”.”

While we shouldn’t expect Microsoft throwing all its wares at Nintendo anytime soon, Banjo-Kazooie appearing in Smash Bros Ultimate would be further indication that the companies are on the same wavelength. Who knows what this will hold in store for the future of gaming, but it’s a far cry from the “console wars” we’ve become used to.