Book Review: Console Wars

A different reading from my recent vacations. I have other similar books in the reading queue, but as I vary the topics/genres...


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

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

Author: Blake J. Harris

Console Wars talks about a small but intense period of time, from 1989 to 1995. Ending the eighties Nintendo had a monopoly at America and SEGA was having a real hard time selling their consoles. 1990 comes and SEGA's 16bit console, the Genesis/Megadrive is also selling badly, so Tom Kalinske, a guy that comes from Mattel where made Barbie sales skyrocket, faces the challenge of breaking Nintendo's absolute reign of videogames.

This book has been a big surprise. I didn't knew exactly what to expect, but for sure wasn't a (good) book about marketing and product. It tells stories (reconstructed from multiple facts and interviews) wihch are about videogames, but not from a development point of view. All the tales of how SEGA got punchy in the anti-Nintendo ads, different ways to build TV commercials, bringing to USA or creating there the first teams to develop games (back then all games were initially done at Japan)... Even the surprising story of how Sony got into building the Playstation and what made it so successful when it launched. Lots of details and tricks they used back then.

You find mentions to some hits of both companies, especially those who really made a dent like Sonic, Mortal Kombat or Donkey Kong Country, but as mentioned before, it is not a listing of "best titles of each platform", it is a story about how to fight against a big and already dominating opponent, and how also things change contantly and you might win today and lose tomorrow, even to an unknown adversary. Nostalgia is there and helps liking the book, but living in Europe this console wars were quite different (and softer) so I learned a lot.

As for the cons, I have a few, although most are things I'd loved to read about more than mistakes or "bad things"... First, it almost doesn't talks about Japan market, which looks it always is and will be a mystery for Europe and America. Also, it tends to focus more on SEGA than on Nintendo, I don't know if because there was more information, more details or just because of the author's taste, but it is a fact and a noticeably biased story-telling. Finally, it ends too early for my taste, with the arrival of the SEGA Saturn... I wish it talked about the Saturn in detail (almost unknown at Spain back then), the Dreamcast and of course the vanishing of SEGA as a console manufacturer.

Despite the "complaints", fully recommended reading. It brought me back great memories of those years, with the emblematic games mentioned, the funny (and radical) Sega scream TV ads, and our school fights about if the SNES was better or worse than the Megadrive/Genesis. Pure geek history :)

Tags: Reviews Gaming

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