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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation | [Blake J. Harris]

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation

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 all that would change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who knew nothing about video games and everything about fighting uphill battles.
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Publisher's Summary

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 all that would change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who knew nothing about video games and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat, and bold ideas of his renegade employees, completely transformed Sega and led to a ruthless, David-and-Goliath showdown with Nintendo. Little did he realize that Sega's success would create many new enemies and, most important, make Nintendo stronger than ever.

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 school yards 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 United States against Japan.

Based on more than 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the tale of how Tom Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punch line into a market leader. Blake J. Harris brings into focus the warriors, the strategies, and the battles and explores how they transformed popular culture forever. Ultimately, Console Wars is 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, give birth to a $60 billion industry.

©2014 Blake J. Harris (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (158 )
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  •  
    Robert MORAGA, CA, United States 06-26-14
    Robert MORAGA, CA, United States 06-26-14 Member Since 2012
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    "If you love video games..."
    If you could sum up Console Wars in three words, what would they be?

    Classic underdog story


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Console Wars?

    The ongoing battle between Sega of Japan and Sega of the US


    Have you listened to any of Fred Berman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Moments of laughter


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shane Snyder Princeton, Minnesota 07-22-14
    Shane Snyder Princeton, Minnesota 07-22-14 Member Since 2011
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    "My Childhood: Explained"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who grew up playing video games in the 80s and 90s. I used to own a NES and an SNES and my cousin owned a Genesis (I later moved on to the PlayStation). This book does an excellent job answering all the questions I ever had about this awesome time in the Home Video Console eras.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved how the story played out like a drama and not like a history.


    Which character – as performed by Fred Berman – was your favorite?

    Fred Berman did an excellent job on all the characters. No one stood out as being exceptionally better (which I think is a good thing)... but I really liked the way he personified the geeky nature of Howard Phillips.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan 06-25-14
    Dan 06-25-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Mostly Dramatized"
    What disappointed you about Console Wars?

    It's told from an obviously biased (for the sake of story) point of view. Sega good. Nintendo bad. America good. Japan bad. Not only that, but this book is 20 hours long because of all the tiny dramatized, obviously fictional details. Which makes for good fiction, but bad history. This book describes the looks on people's faces and passing thoughts that supposedly happened over 20 years ago.


    Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

    Nothing technical here.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The fact that this is asking about scenes says a lot.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Console Wars?

    I would cut the fluff and fictional drama. The actual story without the fluff is good enough on it's own.


    Any additional comments?

    I wouldn't necessarily not recommend it… It just annoyed me that this book is a hybrid. Part fiction, part non fiction. It made it hard to know what was accurate and what wasn't.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GameMaker Portland, OR USA 06-22-14
    GameMaker Portland, OR USA 06-22-14 Member Since 2012
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    "A Trip Down Memory Lane"

    Console Wars gives us all a trip down memory lane, returning us to the mid 80's through the mid 90's, which to me is the "Golden Age Of Video Games". The book focuses mainly on Tom Kalinski, the head of Sega of America, and follows him through the whirlwind ride that Sega took, coming to prominence in the 16-bit wars only to lose it all in 32-bit.

    I really really enjoyed being taken back and re-living that era of video games. And along the way I learned tons about all the corporate strategies and deal-making and such that was going on. Fascinating stuff. Also the reading of this book is outstanding.

    The only downside to me is that the book somehow doesn't take it's own advice, namely that "The name of the game is the game". In other words, the book gives us so much detail about what the heads of the companies are doing, what their strategies were, what the marketing department was doing, how they were coming up with their slogans and advertisements, and on and on. But what they talked surprisingly little about were the games! What would have been much MORE interesting to me was more of a focus on the development of the games, how the games were received by players, discussions about game genres and technologies and peripherals and all that stuff. THAT would be been a lot more engaging.

    But anyway... it's still a really good and interesting book. Highly recommended for fans of video games who are interested in some of the history and behind the scenes stuff of that era.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Juho Helsinki, Finland 05-29-14
    Juho Helsinki, Finland 05-29-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Extremely disappointing"

    The early days of game consoles could be such an interesting subject. The pre-publication excerpt from this book I'd read (about the creation of Donkey Kong) was a great example of that. Unfortunately that excerpt was not representative at all, and mostly the book doesn't do justice to the subject. There are a number of minor problems, but two main ones.

    First, the book is largely written in the form of cheesy reconstructed scenes with overly dramatized dialogue that just feels incredibly fake. Even the more factual parts are written with absurdly purple prose. It's just embarrassing to read.

    Second, the book is bloated. This is only partly due to the dialogue-based storytelling method. The other issue is that the author hasn't been anywhere near sufficiently selective with what events to include. It feels like 50% of the book is detailed descriptions of the preparation of chickenshit marketing stunts with little apparent impact (as an example there was probably 20 minutes of detailed description of some kind of a Sega advertising event in 20 malls). Another 25% is human interest fluff with no relevance at all to the main story (often of bit players who really did not need to be fleshed out, so no reason at all for their inclusion).

    Fred Berman does a good job as a narrator, but the original text is not salvageable.

    10 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 06-24-14
    David Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 06-24-14 Member Since 2007
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    "90% Fiction"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This book is for someone looking for a great story, not a factual recounting of events.


    What was most disappointing about Blake J. Harris’s story?

    The author was constantly trying to sensationalize every interaction. Sega Employees = Top Gun Characters; Nintendo Employees = Blind Japanese Corporate Loving Caricatures


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes... the story.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. So much dramatization of obviously mundane events.


    Any additional comments?

    The author very loosely bases this book on facts. The story was painful to listen to. It is kind of like how Fox News treats political debates.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Dallas, TX USA 05-19-14
    Brian Dallas, TX USA 05-19-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Must read for anyone that owned a SNES or Genesis"
    Any additional comments?

    I don't think I knew anyone who owned a Genesis at the time so this definitely puts a different perspective on things with it's Sega-centric view on the Super NES vs Genesis battle. Incredibly interesting and informative. Really worth a read if you have any fondness for video games from that era or today.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wm. E Tulsa, OK 07-22-14
    Wm. E Tulsa, OK 07-22-14 Member Since 2010

    Spacezombie

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    "Good Story Despite the Poor Performance"
    Would you try another book from Blake J. Harris and/or Fred Berman?

    Maybe, if it had a different narrator.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Console Wars?

    Hearing about the early designs for Sonic the Hedgehog.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Fred Berman?

    I don't think so. I don't like his "female voice" and he butchers the Japanese pronunciations.


    Any additional comments?

    If you want to know more about the history of Nintendo, I recommend Super Mario.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil Valdosta, Gabon 07-09-14
    Neil Valdosta, Gabon 07-09-14 Member Since 2010
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    "A must listen for any veteran of the 16-bit war"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Console Wars to be better than the print version?

    never read the print version but the narrator was good


    What did you like best about this story?

    it's fairly comprehensive. the author clearly did his research and uncovered things i hadn't heard before. Many of the events and certainly the outcomes were familiar to me, but the behind the scenes dramas were not, and hearing the entire story with proper context to Sony. Sega and Nintendo and all the characters involved was eye opening and riveting.

    My only gripe is NEC story was barely mentioned in this book. It was as if they didn't exist. I get that they never had much traction. but even the book mentions that they were seen as the first real credible threat to Nintendo

    Also, many of the great Sega innovations mentioned, were first launched by NEC ( 16-bit system, CD add ons, 16 bit color handheld- which blew away the game gear). I guess from a story perspective it makes for less of stark contrast mentioning NEX, but as a person who got a genesis in 1989. I can tell you that as a kid, i had to make a choice between the system with Altered Beast, or Keith Courage. Sega won that day, but I eventually got a TG16 express and the home console, and really thought NEC made some awesome hardware, but never got the third party support it needed to be a credible threat.


    Which character – as performed by Fred Berman – was your favorite?

    Tom K. the OG from Sega was the true star of this story


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Al Nilsen's exit from Sega


    Any additional comments?

    Parts of this story feel over-dramatized, but I give the writer credit for making this story come to life, and keeping the action going.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay Friedman Dallas, TX United States 06-24-14
    Jay Friedman Dallas, TX United States 06-24-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Wayyyyyyy toooooo long."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The stories are good. The behind-the-scenes stuff is interesting. But I quit after 13 hours. This 20 hour book could have EASILY been 8 hours and exceptional. I love this industry and play games myself. After a while, it just became tedious. I don't need to know EVERY line of every conversation at every cocktail party or meeting.


    What other book might you compare Console Wars to and why?

    Where the Suckers Moon by Randall Rothenberg. Another behind the scenes look at an industry from a journalist perspective.


    Have you listened to any of Fred Berman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Nope.


    Could you see Console Wars being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Yes I can. not sure on the stars.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 15 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Philip
    Stafford, United Kingdom
    6/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
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    "An interesting tale, poorly told"

    Growing up in the 1990s I was very familiar with the intense rivalry between Sega and Nintendo (I was a Sega kid), especially as Sega went from virtually no market share (5%) to the biggest selling console maker (50%) in the space of a few years. The story behind this incredible turnaround is indeed interesting, but made less so by this book.

    The two main issues I have with it, are that conversations (and the book is absolutely full of them) are written as they would be in a novel. Nobody could remember every word to such detail, which makes the book feel fictionalised to a fairly large degree. The author also seems to turn the main players in the story into caricatures.

    The other problem is the reader. He mostly sounds like movie trailer voice over guy, except when reading those over the top characterisations, at which point he puts on a variety of camp or silly pantomime voices. It's just too much, and makes the already difficult to swallow text even less believable.

    The book also ends very abruptly. This is very much the story of Sega's rise, not its fall, with the launch of the Saturn and the collapse in market share barely mentioned. This is really a shame, as this could potentially have been as interesting a story, especially if it had also included the brief lifespan of the brilliant yet unsuccessful Dreamcast.

    A tepid recommendation then, but this should have been so much better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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