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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2014
This charts Tom Kalinske career at Sega so from 1991 to 1996 and covering a golden period in gaming history, with the Megadrive, Saturn and Nintendos NES and SNES and N64. Then going into the rise of Sony and the Playstation. The book switches only occasionally to Nintendo and Sony, with almost all from Sega of Americas point of view.

Blake Harris reportedly interviewed 500 people at Sega and Nintendo for this book, but I suspect most were marketing guys and girls and most in Sega. For this book is essentally a marketing story, dont expect to meet the writers of the game beyond the tiniest mention and yet chapters on the latest Sega advert. This isnt a criticism just an observation upon its focus.

It is written in a novelised form, with dialogue to make you cringe, but Blake Hartis does a good job of making a dry topic a great read never the less through this style.

I pride myself on knowing quite a bit on the subject of video game history and this book is generally good and although the research is patchy (particuarly when discussing Nintendo) and the dialogue the characters speak are highly suspect and couldn't exist outside a Mills and Boon novel... still most events described it is accurate.

Also the book is very US centric to the point of Xenophobia, the Sega of Japan are portrayed as bumbling idiots and one time explained as all cowards unlike the Sega of Amerca who must all wear capes with S emblazed upon their chests such is there flawless and constant heroic decision making. I can't vouch either way personally how Sega of Japan were, but I strongly believe they were far better than this book portrays them. It basically reeks of egotistical people recounting a story where nostalgia and hindsight makes them all into flawless heroes.

The book has mistakes in it and the mistakes and ommissions seem bizarre until you realise that Blake has mostly interviewed the suits in marketing and so you are dealing with those peoples mistaken knowledge... examples such as Nintendo going from Hanafuda cards straight to electric console (missing the all important toys) , bizarre statements like Mario was built as a Joust clone, to unforgivable mistakes in the book like Mario Kart was the first game to shock the world with Mode 7... or Rare software chose the ZX Spectrum as it was the most powerful system available.

Reading the above you probably are wondering why I have given it four stars? Well despite its mistakes I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and for the most part the events described are very accurate and bang on (i would say 95% right), and when combined with a writer able to make the story both interesting and compelling.

At its heart its a David and Golliath story, with Sega thwarting the giant that was Nintendo. Treat the book as Hollywood war film blockbuster, that is expect it to have a slant from reality about the importance of America and to be willing to bend the truth and occasionally break it, all to ensure that the central story arc isn't diminished. Accept that as I did and you will find much to enjoy and love with this book.

I just hope Blake Harris considers releasing the transcripts of all his interviews as I would love to be able determine the reality from the Hollywood in the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2014
I bought this book because I was very much an 80’s Nintendo kid and there has been quite a bit of buzz about it.

The first thing that must be said about it is that this is a book with a very narrow scope. It’s not a history of the console wars, it’s not even a history of Sega (check out Service Games for a better book on this subject). Instead it is a history of how Tom Kalinske successfully marketed the Mega Drive to become the dominant console in early 90’s America before Sega spectacularly shot themselves in the foot with the Sega CD /32X / Saturn debacle.
Non Americans should be aware that markets outside of the US are largely ignored.

Despite it’s limitations it’s a very detailed and clearly well researched book and even people who’ve read quite a bit on the subject will probably learn something. It’s written in an engaging novel like style and is an enjoyable read (though the imagined dialogue is horrific) For people considering a purchase it’s important to realise that it is at it’s heart a book about marketing not video games, or tech.

Though there is little doubt that Tom Kalinske was a marketing genius and pulled off one of the all time underdog upsets when Sega USA pushed Nintendo in the second place spot, the book is guilty of being a bit of a rose tinted love letter (The author even name checks him as a “Great guy” in the acknowledgements).

Most of the achievements of Sega are attributed to him and his team while seemingly blaming anything bad that happened on Japan. This is especially jarring with the 32X which is portrayed as something that was foisted on him when most sources agree that it was largely Sega USA’s baby and developed by a team under his control.
Perhaps worst of all the book asks the question why Sega Japan was so hard on Sega USA and comes to the conclusion “No one knows, probably jealousy” without acknowledging that Sega USAs overspending and price slashing saddled Sega with large debts that restricted their ability to compete with the Playstation.

Despite all these complaints it’s an entertaining book as long as you take it with a substantial pinch of salt and I’m sure most gamers of the early 90’s will enjoy the warm glow of nostalgia.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2015
The console war between Sega and Nintendo of the early 90s seems like a topic that would make for an excellent book. Console Wars is not that excellent book. There are two main problems with it.

1) It's pretty partisan. Although the title and the 'Sega vs Nintendo' tag on the cover would suggest an impartial look at the events involved, the book is heavily focused on Sega, with a few occasional looks at Nintendo and Sony. Even more than being Sega-centric, it's Tom Kalinske-centric, focusing so much on the CEO of Sega of America that it often begins to feel like a hagiography.

2) The writing style. Console Wars is written as though it's a novel (and not a desperately good one at that), rather than dealing with real events. This gives a weird sense of artificiality to everything, as though you're reading the novelisation of a third rate TV Movie based loosely on someone's life (fitting given the foreword by Rogen and Goldberg, who have already optioned it for film). There are reams of chapters that involve people remembering their life stories in the middle of conversations. Poetic license is stretched to breaking point; at one point, Harris describes a gust of wind around a factory, because "sooner or later, a storm would be coming." A *metaphorical* storm, you see! Harris later introduces a new member of the Sega team with no less than four tired cliches in the space of two sentences. This "happy go-lucky" woman "dives in head first" and "hits the ground running", which must hurt a hell of a lot. I guess "she's unafraid to get her hands dirty" because she's so frequently wiping blood away from her head wounds.

Worst is the dialogue, which rarely comes close to sounding like anything an actual human being would say. You can find an example just by opening the book to a random page:

"Worried? Hardly! The stronger they are, the sweeter it'll be when we finally take them down."
"My thoughts exactly. And for what it's worth, no amount of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo can change the fact that when a kid walks into a store and sees a Genesis and a Super Nintendo sitting right next to each other, they'll know exactly what to do. You know what I mean?"

There are plenty more painful attempts at snappy dialogue to be found inside, so if you're a literary masochist, you should definitely give this book a go. Otherwise, I'd suggest avoiding it and waiting for a more competent writer to tackle the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2014
I listened to the audiobook version of this book, which has probably coloured my experience. Though the subject matter is interesting, the style it's written in does not help the book. The narative feels very much like film dialogue - you can picture the scenes playing almost exactly as written. To me, this meant that the scenes took longer than they needed to. Instead of saying "In late 93, Tom met with X, who was becoming increasingly unhappy with his role at Sega", the book spends a page or more setting up the background to the meeting, talking about the baseball game on the tv, etc. Sometimes this works, but by about 1/3rd of the way through, I wished I was actually reading the book instead, so I could skip through this stufff.
The book is interesting, but I found that the most interesting sections - like the history of SEGA, or how Nintendo broke into the US market, (which were generally written in a faster paced, less dialogue heavy style) were better. It's also very much about the marketing of SEGA, not the games themselves, Fianlly, this it's very heavily focused on the US, with almost no description of what was happening in the computer & console market in Europe. Given the story, it's fair that it has this focus, but UK readers should just bare that in mind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2014
A wonderful (if admittedly dramatised) account of the cut-throat reality behind the rivalry that defined early-90s playground debates.

Console Wars paints Sega as the rowdy upstarts and Nintendo as something of a parental tyrant to the industry it helped resurrect. And at its tail-end, the book even delves into the fascinating back-story behind the winner of the next console war, Sony's then-nascent PlayStation.

As a kid from a dead-end town who grew up adoring gaming, became determined to work within it, and eventually found a job as a games reviewer-cum-copywriter, reading this felt like filling in the blanks in my own hazy childhood memories.

And as a Sonic-loving kid, who would later go on to champion the company's Dreamcast as a phoenix from the flames (before the flames sadly burnt out altogether), it offers a perspective and closure to the saga of Sega's fall from grace that I might have otherwise never had.

If you have any interest at all in the history of the videogames industry - as well as in knowing why and how its major players so often fall from their perch - this is an absolute must-read. Magnificent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
`Console Wars' by Blake J. Harris is a book that evokes memories of youth, of countless hours spent on video games when even when we were not in front of the screens we thought about how to pass to the next level or get a good grade in school in order to maybe get a new game our friend already had.

The work of Blake J. Harris is quite extensive with its nearly 600 pages, but the story of the struggle of these two fierce competitors those years on the video market is equally interesting to read now, as for those of us who played intensely back then was interesting to follow.

Though it is probably difficult for today kids to imagine how the things in video games industry looked back then, among other things because of this conflict the gaming world looks exactly like it does.

Highly recommended.
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on 26 November 2014
There are a few things I think people should know before ordering this:

1 - This is in the business / marketing category for a reason. If you're looking for an insight into how games are made, their creative process etc, you won't find it here.

2 - This is less about the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo and more just about Sega (with an overwhelming focus on the US). Huge events at Nintendo are skimmed over in paragraphs, while several pages are frequently devoted to single (uneventful) conversations at Sega.

3 - This is written more like a novel than a non-fiction book. The dialogue (which Blake admits he has condensed and altered to make it more readable) is like that between characters in a forgettable mid-nineties sitcom - lots of unfunny puns and unasked for pearls of wisdom - and becomes rather grating after a while.

4 - Due probably to the focus on Sega, I wouldn't call this the most unbiased account of "the console wars". It's not got any noticeable fanboy squawking, but there's a definite sympathy towards Sega (or, more accurately, an antipathy towards Nintendo) on display.

Having said all that, it is not a bad read. I think Blake does a pretty good job of making his subject (almost exclusively Sega of America) interesting and I don't regret reading it. It is, on occasion, pretty funny, and despite the unrealistically detailed pieces of dialogue, the characters come across as memorable.

If you're interested in the marketing and behind the scenes business machinations of Sega during the console wars (I am aware this is probably a very specific group of people) then this is for you. If you're thinking of buying this for a video game fan, I'd give it a miss.
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on 3 August 2015
Downloaded this book on the recommendation of a friend.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and is a good insight into the on goings between Nintendo and Sega.
The book starts of really well and does really good job of detailing the building tension from Sega leading to the release of the Genesis (MegaDrive) in the US
However half way through the book (I won't give any spoilers) I did struggle to continue on, but I persevered and overall enjoyed the book.
If you have an interest in gaming and was a gamer around the time of the NES,SNES, MasterSystem and Megadrive you will enjoy this book.
If you are not sure what those consoles are then your best of leaving this book alone.

I agree with some of the other reviews where this seems to be more based from Sega's point of view but didn't ruin the story
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on 31 August 2014
Brilliant book which i never wanted to end. It took me straight back to my childhood when console and computer wars kept everyone busy on the playground. This 'behind the scenes' story lends a new perspective to the industry I followed so closely as a kid.

I imagine there must have been quite a bit of creative license in reconstructing some of the scenes, but this doesn't really detract from what is an amazingly well researched book.

My only gripe is that the story ends with Kalinske's tenure at Sega. I would have been VERY interested to read about development & launch of the Dreamcast, which I believe had its own SOJ/SEA intra-company battle. Perhaps a sequel some day...?
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on 8 December 2014
The end of the book definitely seemed rushed to me compared to the beginning - but if you're a fan of video games (and especially the 90's era) this book is fascinating to get an insight into how it was run back then. Yes some of the stories seem embellished - but it all flows along nicely and what do you expect when this is over 20 years ago.

As others have mentioned, there is a heavy Sega emphasis, but as a Sega fan I'm not complaining ;)
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