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

Blake J. Harris
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jun 2014

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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: It Books (19 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062276697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062276698
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Blake J. Harris is a writer/director and co-founder of Flying Penguin Pictures, which has produced such films as The Flying Scissors and Such Great Heights. Currently, Harris is co-directing Console Wars, the documentary based on his book, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. He is also serving as an executive producer on the feature film adaptation. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read not without its flaws 14 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evokes memories of youth 6 Jun 2014
By Denis Vukosav TOP 50 REVIEWER
`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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3.0 out of 5 stars Narrow in scope, but entertaining 27 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A little limited, with an off-putting style. 15 Sep 2014
By ross
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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