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on 23 February 2002
Finally the videogame industry has a book worthy of its association. While Trigger Happy by Steven Poole is a interesting read in its own right, it is book aimed at trying to distinguish what exactly is at the heart of a computer game.
The Ultimate History of Video Games, however, is just that. An exhaustive biography of how the industry grew from the early seventies with Nolan Bushell and Atari right through to the latest battles between Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, virtually no stone is unturned. Kent's exploration through the twenty five years of the industry reveals so much about the companies and the people who nurtured its growth: the 'work less, think hard' mentality of early Atari, the humble beginnings of Nintendo in the U.S., the moral outrage over such games as Doom and Mortal Kombat and so on. What I didn't realise before reading this book was how self-destructive the industry has been. As you will discover, the number of law suits filed against rival companies over patent issues is phenomenal and Kent highlights a number of these. There is so much crammed into this book that it's difficult to pinpoint a highlight. The entire book is a highlight.
It is a little unfortunate that Kent's book does not focus on the industry within Britain (such as the rise and fall of Clive Sinclair and Wipeout, the game that really launched the PlayStation in the UK). This is not a criticism though, as the author is based in the U.S., but it would have been nice to see a little more of the influence the U.K has had rather than just reading about Rare's exploits during Donkey Kong Country and silicon graphics.
If you are a serious gamer interested in the heritage of videogame industry then this is an absolute must. Despite weighing it at a hefty 600 pages I was gripped throughout.
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on 31 March 2011
The actual title of the book would have been "The Ultimate History of U.S. Videogames Industry". The whole text is very U.S. and Japan centered, while Europe is almost absent: Acorn, Rainbow Arts and Infogrames, just to name few, are not even cited, while Sinclair and ZX Spectrum deserve three lines of text on the overall 600 pages.
The point of view is extremely focused on Atari, Nintendo and Sega, while Mattel Intellivision is dismissed in less than three pages.
Many ground-breaking all-time classics are not present at all: Galaga, Moon Patrol, Dig Dug, Tomb Raider, Sid Meier's Civilization, Elite, SimCity, Command & Conquer, Quake...
Interactive Fiction is ignored altogether: even Infocom's "Zork" is nonchalantly bypassed despite its million copies sold.
The book is very well documented on various trials between industry firms, which may or may not interest the reader: but again, this is the history of the industry, not of videogames themselves: for this, you have to definitely look elsewhere.
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on 27 August 2007
This is an engaging and well-written account of how the games industry got started and grew to the size it is today (actually it ends at around the Xbox / PS2 era). Don't be fooled by the cartoonish cover this is more of a book for older readers. If you're interested in economics and business deals then you'll find them here, if on the other hand you want more discussion of the actual games then I'd recommend The Video Games Guide. Still there's fun to be had in finding out about how the various companies got one up on each other (often quite ruthlessly), they may be in the business of making games but they certainly aren't playing.
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on 25 January 2004
'The Ultimate History of Video Games' offers a great insight into the origins of the video games medium.
With great focus shifted on the early years of the video arcade and home video gaming, this books covers in-depth the emergence of a 'craze that touched our lives and changed the world'.
Covering the time span from the introduction of the mechanical arcades, to the point when Microsoft was about to enter the market with the Xbox, this is an essential read to anyone who vaguely interested in this medium, providing detailed information on the majority of important soft- and hardware developments of the video gaming industry, the effects of video games on culture and factualising less important information such as to whom Mario was named after.
This book is from written from an American standpoint, and as pointed out in other reviews, it is a shame that there was not more detail on either the Japanese or European markets. Also, this book does not include near enough of information on the development of pc gaming (not really surprising given that it is a history of video games, but it would have been nice to see Kent expand a couple of computer related stories). However, these are minor drawbacks in an otherwise well written book, which makes a very entertaining read all the way through (coming from a guy (me) who generally dislikes reading).
In summary, anyone who is either looking to purchase a book on video gaming in general, or requires a vast and detailed pool of information on the birth of the medium and the emergence of a multi-billion industry, should seriously considering purchasing this book. Worth its weight in gold.
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on 17 December 2010
This is a great read. So many little facts and anecdotes you never knew, irrespective if how much you thought you knew about the industry. Obviously it can't cover all basses, and it's focussed very much on video games, not computer games. So dont expect much on the early days of computing. Ie, Commodore, Sprectrum, BBC, Amiga, Amstrad etc. Nonetheless it's an increddibly insightful, behind the scenes recount of the progression of video games through from the sixties to the naughties.
Highly recommended.
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on 4 November 2002
In this book you'll find the adventures and misadventures of entrepreneurs as Nolan Bushnell (Atari) and others that made history in the videogame bussines. It does provide a very interesting account of the era (1971-2000) from the industry point of view. The weaker points are the lack of illustrations (for this you'll have to get Supercade) and the european side of the history (ie. sinclair). Nonetheless, this work is a must for videogamers.
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on 24 January 2014
This book has received many great reviews stating it as an excellent read and one that would keep me engrossed for hours. I wanted a book that thoroughly detailed the history of videogames and didn't just skim over it.

This book does that, but it ends in 2001/2, and i bought this in 2013. It laugh when it describes "Microsofts exciting new XBOX console".

But apart from that extremely minor set back. It is a great read!
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on 31 July 2010
You don't just have to be a video gam fan to enjoy this book. From the start of pinball to the mechanics of the first arcade machines to Nintendo v Sega and Sony entering the market this is an extensive history of video games and the companies who made them. In a huge 624 pages this book crams in just about every detail you could want to know, how Atari got started, how the arcade fad came about and how quickly it died, Nintendos dominance and Segas challenge and eventual collapse. You see just how sue happy a lot of the video game companies were and the relationships and character of the people who ran them.

Although the book tells the history only until around 2001 it really is a first class book of the history video game industry.
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on 9 March 2010
A weighty tome for the money, this book centres on the anecodotes around the creation of some of the games that were the defining points within the early years of the industry.

As other reviews have mentioned, this book is centred on the business side of things - personally I find this fasinating; to think of the boardroom battles that I was unaware of while whiling away the hours on Sonic the Hedgehog.
If you want more detail about the actual games, maybe look elsewhere.
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on 22 October 2009
This book is humourous and informative - the best book I have read on the subject.

It is extremely thorough and although it concentrates on the american market more than any other, it is nonetheless very entertaining. It re-ignites your desire to get hold of some retro games and re-live the enjoyment from years gone by!

Highly recommended!
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