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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation [Kindle Edition]

Blake J. Harris
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Following the success of The Accidental Billionaires and Moneyball comes Console Wars—a mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video game industry.

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But that would all change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a man who knew nothing about videogames and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat and bold ideas of his renegade employees, transformed Sega and eventually led to a ruthless David-and-Goliath showdown with rival Nintendo.

The battle was vicious, relentless, and highly profitable, eventually sparking a global corporate war that would be fought on several fronts: from living rooms and schoolyards to boardrooms and Congress. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, no-holds-barred conflict that pitted brother against brother, kid against adult, Sonic against Mario, and the US against Japan.

Based on over two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the underdog tale of how Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punchline into a market leader. It’s the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, birth a $60 billion dollar industry.

Editorial Reviews Review

Ben Mezrich
Ben Mezrich, bestselling author of Bringing Down the House and Straight Flush, Reviews Console Wars

OK, full disclosure: I spent most of my twenties obsessed with GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64; I’ve got enough old videogame cartridges to build a medium-sized cartridge castle in my living room; and I’ve spent hours arguing the relative merits of Playstation versus Xbox. But Console Wars had me hooked from the first page. Written as narrative nonfiction, the story zings along at a breakneck pace. Compiling a massive amount of research into a well-executed dramatic arc, Harris tells the David vs. Goliath story of Sega’s epic battle against the gaming behemoth Nintendo. I especially enjoyed reading about the development of Sega’s mascot – and would-be Mario-killer – Sonic, the frenetic, frenzied little hedgehog that eventually shifted the balance between the two companies, changed the gaming landscape forever. The character of Tom Kalinske, the brilliant business guru (who’d resurrected Barbie, turning a back-of-the-closet, anachronistic doll into a contemporary, billion-dollar phenomenon) tapped to transform Sega from a small-scale Japanese arcade game outfit into a global competitor, is deftly drawn; from the very beginning, he faces a herculean task, not the least of which is his need to bridge the cultural chasm between American consumers and Japanese managers. Infighting, corporate greed, scrappy genius vs. antiquated business models – Console Wars has it all. A thoroughly good read!

From Booklist

*Starred Review* At the dawn of the 1990s, Nintendo was the Goliath of the video-game industry. The company’s strictures on third-party development and its policy of understocking retailers contributed to the stranglehold on the market. But Tom Kalinske, who had rejuvenated Barbie and created He-Man for Mattel, was about to change that as the president and CEO of Sega. Like the pixels that together create a larger picture, Harris presents the various elements of the business in vivid color, from research and development to marketing, to show how Sega went from a joke to a market leader in just a few years. Along the way, Harris reveals the forces behind such decisions as Nintendo changing red blood to gray sweat in Mortal Kombat; the origin story of the nickname for Sonic’s sidekick, Tails; and even how Mario was supposed to be a certain spinach-guzzling sailor, in a manner that will engage both Gen X gamers and business-minded readers. Harris defines the players immediately, honing in on their most notable characteristics, and puts the reader in the thick of the meetings and deal-making with a confidence stemming from hundreds of interviews. Pegged for both documentary and feature-film adaptations, Console Wars is remarkably detailed and fast paced, pitting speedy Sonic against more-of-the-same Mario in a blow-by-blow account of the battle for supremacy in the burgeoning video-game industry. --Bridget Thoreson

Product Details

  • File Size: 5968 KB
  • Print Length: 589 pages
  • Publisher: It Books (May 13, 2014)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FJ379XE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,015 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Console Wars largely chronicles the period between 1989 and 1995, when Sega battled Nintendo for dominance in the home console market, ending as Sony displaces Sega in the 32-bit era as Nintendo's main competitor. In a sense, it does serve as a sort of sequel to David Sheff's gold-standard account in "Game Over" of the rise of Nintendo in the 80's, which left off at the point where Sega's Genesis had just started to get a serious foothold in the market. However, the styles in which the two authors approach their subjects are very different, and it's interesting to compare them.
Sheff's Game Over contained very little conversational dialogue. He wrote his book like a reporter: documenting scenes and incidents by describing the people and particulars involved, the content of what they said, and the effect of their interactions. His book was full of individual quotes, but the large majority of them were presented matter-of-factly as accounts made by the subject either directly to the author in interview, or to another source of record which Sheff was citing. In-scene "dialogue" was used sparingly, and mostly limited to short lines that reflected exactly what was known by the subject or other observers to have been said, or something very close to it. This gave Sheff's book a journalistic crackle, keeping the pace moving, the flow of information constant, and the level of authorial distance removed enough that the reader always maintained a panoramic view of the bigger picture, and didn't get bogged down in superfluous, artificial detail.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Oh man, this book is good. If you’re like me, an important part of your childhood revolved around saving princesses and hitting up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A on your controller. This book, CONSOLE WARS, brings it all back. And then some.

Word of warning: this book is hefty. Weighing in at 550 pages, this is a good chunk of verbiage covering half a decade of video gaming history. Is the journey worth it? Hell yeah!

Did you know that the Donkey Kong game was supposed to be a Popeye the Sailorman game? How about Tom Hanks being turned down for the Mario movie? And, are the rumors true: did Michael Jackson write music for Sonic 3? There’s a ton of information packed into the book. Every time I was tempted to skim ahead, something else caught my attention. The author, Blake Harris, weaves the dialogue and happenings that he collected from over 200 interviews into an interesting narrative that comes from all directions of the industry.

My personal story mirrors the boy in 8-BIT CHRISTMAS (if you haven’t read that book, do it). Santa usually stocked my tree with Nintendo-based presents. So, what interested me most in this book was the opposing history of Sega: mainly, how the underdogs took the proverbial bull by the horns and kicked its a**. When everything went wrong—prize fighter losing before game release; power outage at a major press conference; Walmart refusing to carry product—the folks at Sega owned the situation and rose to the top.

I was also especially interested in the nearness of a Sega-Sony merge. Can you imagine the state of video games if Sega released the Playstation with Sony? Nintendo had a chance, spurred Sony, and well…you’ll have to read about it all. Not to mention Sega of Japan’s involvement all along the way.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Console wars = marketing and sales wars? June 4, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book overall, but was disappointed the book focused entirely on marketing and sales and basically ignored engineering and software development. There are occasional allusions to technology (16 bits vs. 8 bits, Nintendo's mode 7, Sega's Blast Processing, etc.) but basically this book implies the console wars were won and lost by the sales and marketing teams of Nintendo and Sega. The book is also very focused on the Sega Genesis and the NES/SNES. Very little is written on the Sega Saturn and its commercial failuree.

I understand the best engineering doesn't always win (Betamax), but the exclusive focus on marketing and sales seems unbalanced and superficial. I was hoping for a more balanced treatment of the subject including more details on the technical innovations in each generation of the console hardware and the incredible creativity and technical accomplishments of the game developers of this era. Instead, we are treated to stories of marketing and sales staff arguing over first-class airplane seats.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Harris did a phenomenal job at catching the essence of the corporate battle between various executives of the video game industry. Additionally, he tells a story while blending historical facts within the industry. It was great to read about the media selection process, business philosophy and how this moment in history forever changed the video game industry landscape. Out of this console war came the E3 show, video game rating system and, as obvious as it sounds, release days for video games. Sega did the first global release with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 which is more or less video games 101 when you buy games online now. Even with that global release, Sega of Japan still managed to impose their own unnecessary corporate drama. When you read this story and work in this industry, you see pretty much the same thing happening now with Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and new players that are changing things in the space such as Valve and Ouya. Anyway, this is a must read for video game enthusiasts, people that grew up in the 90's and anyone curious about business and marketing deals really get done.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I'd Give it a 2.5 If it Wasn't at Least About Video Games (and.. if...
Blake Harris had a decision to make: write a bearably long, considerably dense, and exceptionally well-written feature story that would garner a short amount of attention and make... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Elliott Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars A blockbuster in so many ways
Having been a teen during the Nintendo v Sega battle, the book reminded me of how central video games were to my life at the time the events recounted in Console Wars took place. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Hbar
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for Retro game lovers.
One of the best video game history books i have ever read, it was quite enjoyable to hear how things where created back in the 90's and how the industry worked.
Published 17 days ago by James Albright
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!!!
This book was a great read. I was really young at the time of the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. I was more of a fan of Sega but i did enjoy Nintendo back then. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Falcon511
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book is a great read for any gamer, especially Sega/Nintendo ones!
Published 26 days ago by Agron Curtis
4.0 out of 5 stars Long and interesting story of the Sega era
A very long book that tells the story of Sega, with a little bit of Nintendo history and Sony Playstation history mixed in. Read more
Published 27 days ago by John J. Franco
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book, if your interested in video games, or if you are...
A friend recommended this book to me and would not relent till I read it. I finally did... and he was right. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Richard H. Parker
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
Wasn't what we were expecting
Published 1 month ago by cheri
5.0 out of 5 stars great story
Great story that reminded me of very happy memories from my childhood. Very informative for the video game generation that I am part of.
Published 1 month ago by Dake
5.0 out of 5 stars Really well written
This book helped me relive my childhood. I am amazed at how much I connected to the console wars. Often threatening my parents that I would run away if they didn't buy me the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brian Bettenhausen
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More About the Author

Blake J. Harris is a writer and filmmaker based out of New York. He is currently co-directing the documentary based on his book, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg. He will also serve as an executive producer on Sony's feature-film adaptation of Console Wars.

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