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
Classic underdog story
The ongoing battle between Sega of Japan and Sega of the US
Moments of laughter
The rise and fall of Sega of America during the 16 bit era under the leadership of Tom Kalinske, is a fascinating underdog story. Granted, it probably helps if you are a gamer, even more so if you had been one during that time period, but who doesn't love the story of a scrappy group of ragtags who take a nothing and make it something? Unfortunately, as anyone who knows the gaming business knows, this story doesn't have a happy ending, which I won't spoil, even though it's pretty much common knowledge how the whole thing went down by now.
I hate to repeat what so many other reviewers have written, but I can't get around it. This book reads like a cheesy novelization of a movie, which is no surprise considering it's author, Blake J. Harris is a screenwriter who is co-directing the movie of this book which, if I'm not mistaken, was already in planning before this book was even published. Harris admits in the introduction he may have take some poetic license here and there and it shows. Everything that happens in this book is so dramatic!
It doesn't help that Fred Berman is performing the heck out of the text. I'm not sure how else one could do it, but he matches groan worthy dialogue with clipped, Comic Book Guy cadences and almost gets to Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's level when reading Asian characters. The audiobook performance really emphasizes how annoyingly this thing was written.
So why didn't I just stop and hit the "return" button? Because the story is that fascinating to me. While I knew some of the details from years of reading retrogaming magazines and the book about Nintendo, Game Over, this was still very informative. I learned a lot of things, especially when it came to the origins of Sega's entry into the 32 bit era, and that was what kept me coming back.
The problem is, I have to wonder how much really happened and how much was that aforementioned poetic license. Certainly some things are a matter of record, but so many events happened behind closed doors and out of the public eye. Though I know Harris is said to have interviewed 200 people, the heavily dramatized style of writing causes me to instinctively question what I am hearing.
It would also have been really great to have seen more involvement from Sega of Japan. I haven't any idea how much Harris reached out to them and, if he did, it wouldn't be a shock to learn he was rebuffed. Still, without getting into too many spoilers, there are a lot of unanswered questions that only the people at Sega of Japan could answer, although it sounds like Tom Kalinske and all his team are probably still looking for those answers too.
The bottom line is, there's a great story here, it's just unfortunate the wrong person chose to write it. If you can stomach the unnecessary cinematic tone, and the audiobook performance to match, there's some good stuff here. It's just a shame that Harris couldn't have just written a book rather than trying to simultaneously make it into a movie.
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.
I loved how the story played out like a drama and not like a history.
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.
Mainly a sci-fi, and fantasy junkie who also enjoys horror, whodunnits, and books about animals and sports. I'm also an amateur filmmaker.
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.
Herman had the tough task of performing voices from Japan, Iceland, Britain, and the United States. His female voices were also well done. The narration did a wonderful job of adding to an already great story.
I'm a huge fan of video game history and I've read a few books on the subject. This is easily one of the best. A must-read for those interested in the subject, especially those with a soft spot for Sega. Bergman does a great job narrating the book and actually manages to deliver a pretty decent Japanese accent, even if the few other accents he occasionally brings out aren't great. I enjoyed it from start to finish. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the subject matter.
The console wars is the story of Sega's rise to power in a market dominated entirely by Nintendo. The plot revolves around Tom Kalinsky, from his beginnings at the game manufacturer, to his final days as Sega of America's president. The Console Wars lets the listener see into the world of game marketing, and how a small team of about fifty people, grew into a company of thousands. Anyone interested in video games, marketing, or just good human drama, should give this book a listen. The narrator, while injecting a little too much "ham" into the story for my taste, still does an excellent job separating voice so as to not confuse the listener.
Overall I recommend it. It's a fascinating story, and if you were born in the mid-1980s like me, it's like going behind the scenes on your own childhood.
But oh god... all that made-up dialogue and "witty" banter! You have to form scenes and fictionalize non-fiction, but you don't have to make it sound like a TV movie. It's a balance that The Disaster Artist gets right, and this book bombs completely.
He was awful. His regular reading voice sounds like a movie henchman. His New Jersey guy sounds like Marlon Brando as Vito Corlenoe. His Japanese characters are total racist caricatures. His women sound like angels floating in space. One character sounds like Ed Sullivan for no reason.
He manages to kill otherwise good jokes with his weird, stop-and-start pacing at crucial moments. And he pronounces Famicom "Famicon."
"Narrated by Fred Berman" will literally stop me from listening to audiobooks in the future.
i love this book. it was well written and well read on audible. The story of Sega vs Nintendo and Sega of America vs Sega of Japan is just so intresting. its all because of SOJ why sega is the low end cap software company they are now. If your a gamer this is a must have. A+++. Tom Kalinske and his team at SOA were just amazing and made my childhood awesome. shame SOJ runied it. Sega vs Nintendo > Playstation vs Xbox
I would recommend this audiobook. Although dramatized at points, it is thoroughly entertaining and a wonderful look into the marketing side of the video game industry.
I liked that every person in console wars had a very distinct voice, so when he talks, even if he does not say who is talking, you already know who it is.
"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.
"A bit over done."
As someone who grew up during the console wars, I lived the life of a fanboy to its full. So I was excited to get a chance to hear the story in depth of one of the main contenders.
Im sad to say I was left disappointed, the book was full of over the top drama and hyperbole. Many of the anecdotes felt straight out of bad made for TV movie and felt like they written with a target audience of young teenagers in mind, which given the subject matter felt very misjudged.
3/10 would not bang.
"Console Wars- The True Hollywood story"
It is no surprise that this book has recently been picked up to be developed into a feature film; It is written that way all the way through the book.
I was expecting more of a documented history, similar to that of the excellent History of Marvel Comics by Sean Howe, such as: Articles from the time, accounts from the people involved, and an even handed view of each company's actions throughout the book.
What we're instead presented with is mainly the story of Tom Kalinske, who takes over as the head of Sega of America after the launch of the Genesis (Megadrive in the PAL region) before the release of Sonic the Hedgehog. The book is apparently based on some 200 interviews of employees of both Sega and Nintendo, but is presented as a through narrative, with an omnipotent narrator. I often found myself thinking "How can he possibly remember glancing across a bar and seeing the transfixed look of a waitress when first seeing a Sega gamegear which put him in mind of his early days at Mattell when he reinvented the Barbie franchise--" etc etc. This was my main problem with the book; what is fact, what is opinion, what is embellishment? It's not clear. I was about 9 hours in before I heard an actual quote of a newspaper headline.
That said, it is an interesting book, part docu-drama, part marketing handbook, part historical text. Give it a go if you're an avid video game enthusiast. However, if you're a Nintendo Fanboy- this book is mainly about Sega, painted as the plucky underdog to a stagnant Nintendo, which I felt was a little unfair, but a smart choice for a story.
Too dramatised. Bombastic and fast paced but too much hyperbole. Entertaining but cheesy narrator overplays all the jokes, does an excellent cod-japanese accent and makes one character sound like comic book guy from the Simpsons. Almost entirely non technical- explains things with nonsensical similes. Completely America centric. Small factual errors. Omits details to support the narrative to such a degree that it feels unrealistic.
"My favorite title on Audible"
Exciting, educational, entertaining
How Sega took on Nintendo in North America and won! I was not aware of many of the events that happened when Sega and Nintendo were head-to-head, this book presents them in a movie-like way with fantastic acting.
Its very long but I would love to see a film version condensed!!
You will not regret this if you are a video game fan!!
"Definitely a change of mind. "
freaking loved it.
no spoilers but Sega really took a battle.
I've listened to my fair share of audiobooks and the narrator was the best. easy to listen to. gave each character a personality. love love it.
love this book the rise and fall of
the protagonist is fascinating a book you will be unable to stop listening
"as a Sega kid this was awesome"
told from the point of view of Sega. great insight in the rise and fall of Sega
Moves at a fast pace. I enjoyed it. Few up with the consoles as a kid.
"brilliant and well worth a listen."
well worth the credits/money. Brilliantly performed and overall a great listen, not sure I'll find any more better than this.
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