A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: NPR, Slate, Publishers Weekly, Goodreads
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.
In this engaging narrative, filmmaker Harris (The Flying Scissors) recounts one of the fundamental pop culture rivalries of the 90s, the so-called "Console Wars," which saw Sega and Nintendo vying for market dominance in the early days of the home entertainment console industry. Harris portrays Nintendo as the distinguished incumbent, obsessed with quality control and perfection, while Sega is painted as the ambitious upstart willing to rewrite the rules of engagement. At the heart of it all is underdog businessman Tom Kalinske. While not the only primary character, it's his efforts to make Sega of America into a viable operation and a serious contender that drives much of the book. Harris covers all sides of the ongoing conflict (including the arrival of third party Sony) with cunning thoroughness, turning hundreds of interviews into a riveting story full of colorful characters. While the story is presented as a series of contrasts Nintendo Entertainment System vs. Sega Genesis, Mario vs. Sonic, 8-bit vs. 16-bit vs. 32-bit it's also a fascinating, even illuminating, history of the video game industry as seen through the experiences of two influential companies and a host of participants, ending with the advent of the fifth generation consoles, and Kalinske's resignation in 1996. This is an essential read for any interested in the evolution of video games, and the rise and fall of Sega as a console contender.
Customer ReviewsSee All
An amazing read from the first to the last page
I am usually not one to write reviews on books I have read, but if have to make an exception in the case of Blake J. Harris' Console Wars.
As someone who grew up in the age of Nintendo vs Sega I never knew much about the background of the rivalry. This book changed that. I learned a lot about the figures that were involved.
It was so informative and was such a pleasure to read (when I would start reading it before going to sleep I wouldn't be able to stop until I was about to pass out) that I'll always grab any future books by this author and look forward to the documentary being developed based on this book.