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
Filling the Gap
This is a must read for anyone who has ever spent anytime playing video games. Blake navigates us through the campaign of the early Sega/Nintendo rivalry. A fantastically thorough pick that keeps you turning the pages. If there’s a book to read this summer, then this is it.
If you grew up in the 90's...
Then it's going to be hard to put this book down. The book is full of "O yea! I remember that!" Nostalgic moments and then tells you the back story behind the famous ad campaigns and products that came out of the console wars. Great eras and hopefully the movie will be just as good.
If you remember the days when you were socially obligated to make a choice between sega or Nintendo, this book must be read.
I remember as a kid my brother owned the sega genesis and I had the snes. Both were great systems but the good part is learning how it became the war that it did. I have a new found respect for the old schoolers at sega. I never understood the amount of work they put into making the genesis the system that it became.