Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
Blake J. Harris
4 / 5
"In 1987, Tom Kalinske was at a crossroads."
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.
Okay, I know that a lot of people are talking this book down because it's written very casually, but I loved it. C'mon, it's a book about video games! It is supposed to be fun, not dry. I appreciate that the author took some liberties and tried to make the stories more entertaining by sometimes dreaming up conversations. Sure, sometimes the "witty banter" got a little old, but overall, Harris made the book a ton of fun to read. And considering it is a book about business at its heart, I'm impressed by what he was able to do!
I received this book from the generous Dey Street Publishers, and alternated between reading that physical copy and listening to the audiobook I'd checked out from my local library - but the reader was so great, I ended up listening to most of it! (I can't pin who his voice reminds me of, but it was reminiscent of an '80s actor all grown up, which made it a really enjoyable listen.)
When I was a little pre-teen, I used to go over one of my best friends ever's house after school (hi, Marsha!) and we'd play Sonic the Hedgehog. This book brought a bunch of nostalgia for the early '90s along with it, which I think was part of the point and certainly part of the draw. The reader got thrown full-force back into the feel of the time, and I was especially struck by memories of certain commercials and ad campaigns that I had forgotten all about, but recalled with fondness.
There isn't much I can say about this book specifically, but I really did like its (largely) fun take on the gaming industry, the competition between Nintendo and Sega, and the story of a console company's rise and fall. I would recommend it to anyone who feels pangs of nostalgia for the 1980s and enjoys their historical fiction written in a novel-type format.
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