Review: Console Wars

Console Wars by Blake J. HarrisTitle: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
Author: Blake J. Harris
Series: n/a

About: 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 U.S. 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.

My Thoughts: I’m sure you’ve noticed that I don’t review a lot of nonfiction. That’s because I don’t generally read a lot of nonfiction. I tend to avoid it like the plague — well, almost. But, this book piqued my interest at once. Console Wars — Sega versus Nintendo — this is my childhood! We had a Nintendo (the original) when I was a kid, and then the SNES. We didn’t have a Sega Genesis, but my uncle did. My favorite game on that probably was ToeJam and Earl. My sisters and I found it hilarious and a lot of fun. We were a Nintendo family through and through. Although, we never had the N64 or GameCube. I think because my sisters and I were older; we just didn’t “need” that stuff anymore. And then the Sony PlayStation came out, and it was all over. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still Nintendo fans — we have a Wii and a ton of games — but nothing beats our PS3 (not even the Xbox, which we also have).

And that was a bit of a tangent. Anyway, you can see why this book would appeal to me. I reluctantly decided to give it a read — reluctant because nonfiction is so often dry. I love fiction with excitement, adventure, drama, etc. Nonfiction often reads like, well, nonfiction — textbooks, more often than not. Fortunately, that is NOT the case with this book! Console Wars by Blake J. Harris reads like a fiction narrative. There’s drama, very intriguing “characters,” surprises, and even a good amount of suspense! And that’s even though anyone interested in this likely knows that Nintendo won the console war with Sega, but I’m guessing many (dare I say most?) don’t know how it all went down. When Sega tanked — and more importantly why.

And let me tell you, those nitty-gritty details? FASCINATING! This book had me hooked pretty much from the beginning — and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about nonfiction before. And it kept me interested the whole way through — now I know I’ve never said that about nonfiction! And you know what? I wanted MORE afterward! Despite the book being well over 500 pages long (556 for my ARC), I wanted more information. I wanted to know where Kalinske went next and so much more about what happened to him. And I wanted more on Sony’s adventures with the PlayStation.

More specifically about the book, it’s really more Sega’s story than anything. We see more of Kalinske’s role in all of this than anything, and the book starts and ends with him — so, really, maybe more than Sega’s story, it’s actually Kalinske’s Sega story. Learning the origins of both of these companies — especially Nintendo, which dates back to 1889. YES, the 1800s! Crazy, right? Obviously, it wasn’t video games quite yet, but still the fact that the company itself goes back that far just amazed me. Now, Nintendo isn’t painted in a very positive light, and often comes across as a bit of a villain. Their business practices, well, to me (at least back then during the events of this book), were horrible. I’d love to know if they have changed much of that — and how. I sure hope so.

I kinda hope there’s a follow-up to this that will continue the story. At the end of this, Kalinske has left Sega, and the Sony PlayStation has begun its rise. I’d love to see more about PS versus Nintendo, and possibly versus the late-arriving Xbox. Although much of that is recent enough history that the companies likely don’t care to share that stuff quite yet. Still, this book left me thirsting for more, wanting to know what happened after the events at the very end. Again, I have never said that about nonfiction before! And, honestly, the odds are very low that I ever will again! LOL

Alas, there likely won’t be more written to “continue” the story of consoles and such. I’m OK with that. That’s what Google is for, right? ;) Seriously, though, I was thrilled (yes, thrilled!) to learn that there’s a documentary based on this book already in production! (Me? Excited over a documentary? What’s the world coming to?) I cannot wait to see this movie! I cannot wait to feast my eyes on this documentary film. Another first for me!

5 StarsSource: ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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FTC Disclosure: All items reviewed were either obtained by me for my own enjoyment or sent (from the author, publisher, publicist, via tour sites, etc.) in exchange for an honest review. I receive no monetary compensation for my posts. All opinions expressed are my own. Any exceptions to this are clearly noted in the appropriate posts.

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  1. I also don’t like nonfiction. But this sounds interesting. I never played video games until the Xbox but Kevin is all into it. Glad to hear it’s not a dry read!
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