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

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  8,184 ratings  ·  943 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 576 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by It Books (first published May 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  8,184 ratings  ·  943 reviews


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Matt Goldberg
May 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book was fucking awful. I would have stopped reading it midway, but I had to finish because I had agreed to interview the author, an author who had contacted me personally before I was even sent a review copy (he e-mailed me regarding a news article I wrote about a film adaptation of the book). There was no getting out of it, and I desperately wanted to get out of it.

I love behind-the-scenes stories, but Harris illuminates them horribly. In broad terms, it's about underdog Sega finding a
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Brandon
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When the folks at Nintendo released the 8-bit NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), the home console industry was on its last legs. Following a spectacular crash of the gaming market in 1983 (Atari’s E.T. fiasco), Nintendo had its work cut out for it if it believed it could take the medium off of life support. By limiting supply, taking a hard stance on game quality and working with some of the largest retailers in North America, the Japanese company single-handedly resurrected the industry and ...more
David
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
I have fond memories of playing videogames on the Sega Genesis console with my daughter, years ago. We loved playing Sonic, Sonic Two, and Toejam and Earl. They were great games!

So, I thought it would be fun to read about the "console wars" between Sega and Nintendo. The subtitle of the book is "Sega, Nintendo, and that battle that defined a generation". Well, that subtitle does seem to be an exaggeration. "Defined a generation"? I'm not sure which generation these console wars defined--not my
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Miles
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
The book gets two stars because I grew up with the subject matter and so the story itself is fascinating to me. The book gets minus three stars because it's atrociously written, stretches the boundaries of the term "journalism", and has some of the worst dialogue I've ever read.

There's a forward at the beginning of the book that says that scenes and dialogue have often been made up...and it shows. A few prime examples:

"Hawkins didn't respond, but his eyes shone with the glimmer of a shooting
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Yong Hoon
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
The gamble that Harris takes with this book is that readers will find a novelization of the events that transpired between Nintendo and Sega in the early nineties more interesting than a factual account or interview collection. All of the dialogue is fictional (and reads like it), and the book is organized into a collection of stories, with each one detailing a conversation or having the feel of a movie montage. This book has no quotes from the major players (or at least, if there are, they're ...more
Chaimpesach
Sep 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book does not deserve all of these positive reviews. It is not something I would recommend to people.

It's some sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nightmare whereby it alternates between an informative and interesting history of the era (e.g. discussion of Nintendo's rise, the relationship between Sony and Sega, the early history of the Playstation, and the ill-fated production of the Mario Brothers movie) and some absolutely awful screenplay writing and character studies into people I honestly
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Bo
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a kid, I loved video games. And the whole time, I was never aware of the intense corporate battle behind the lines at Nintendo and Sega. What a great story. I got to meet a lot of the people that were instrumental in the entertainment and media that shaped my teenage years. If you have enjoyed video games in any capacity, I can't recommend this book enough. Also, check out the Sega Nerds podcast, as they have interviewed many of the people written about in this book. I would wait until after ...more
Bon Tom
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible book. It's factual, fool to the brim with insider stuff (can't imagine how and where did the author get his hands on all the dialogues going inside Sega and Nintendo quarters), yet written as a thriller with elements of comedy.

There are hilarious moments that made me burst out in laughter.

I had a pleasure of listening to audiobook. Production is incredible. The narrator changes voices and pronunciation accordingly, depending on whether it's Japanese or American or nordic
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Chance Lee
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-story
Console Wars is the story of Nintendo revitalizing the video game industry and Sega's challenges to their monopoly that changed the industry forever. It's a fascinating look into the business intentions behind these two companies, without whom the videogame industry wouldn't be the multi-billion dollar business it is today.

It is also one of the worst-written books I've read, and I've been saying that a lot lately.

The "war" between these two companies changed the world more than you might
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Chris
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014
The battle for video game dominance is a promising topic for a book and indeed, Console Wars is a great retelling of this rivalry and author Blake J. Harris does an able job of getting the facts together in an entertaining fashion. I appreciated the way that Harris went out of his way not to paint either company as the bad guy in this showdown. Growing up in the 1990's, I was more than familiar with the console wars between Nintendo and Sega. Lines were drawn between the two companies so sharply ...more
Rob
Executive Summary: A good, but not great look at one of the key times in video game history.

Full Review
I don't read a lot of non-fiction. Most of what I do read tends to be about computer stuff. However video games have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I still consider the 16-bit generation to be one of the best. The games hold up so much better than the 32/64 bit generation that followed as 3d was being introduced. The art style is a lot more timeless and some
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Snowfire
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting, gripping, and very readable - but also a tad shallow. Think "thriller novel that happens to be based on real-life" and you'll know if you're interested or not.

I heard the author speak, and he's a nice guy. The book says upfront that it's based on a bunch of interviews conducted by the author, and that it's the author's way of putting everything together in novel-esque form. He doesn't ever want to stop and give boring footnotes or explanatory passages. It certainly keeps the
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Abenet
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
WOW! If you have any interest in video games, or, if like me, you sat on the sidelines as your brothers played for countless uninterrupted hours, then you'll thoroughly enjoy this book. I was most fascinated by the technological advancements and innovative marketing tactics that came about as result of this industry. For example, did you know video games initially didn't have a set release date? Crazy, right?

I could go on and on about this book and all the fascinating things I learned, but that
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Shaun
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was a little hesitant to read a 600-page autobiography of Tom Kalinske, the marketing guru who reinvented Barbie and shepherded the SEGA Genesis through its release in America, but I dove in because the guy is a genius, right?

...wait. The author is listed as "Blake Harris." This isn't by Kalinske?

So, this book is a disaster. Why is it so long, you might ask? Unfortunately, the answer is not that this book gives the authoritative, comprehensive history of video games. Rather, this book is so
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DiscoSpacePanther
May 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The fact that I finished this book is the only reason it gets more than one star.
The subject matter should be fascinating - the rise and fall of Sega in 1990s America - yet Blake Harris manages to turn it into an endless parade of dull imaginary conversations about sales and marketing, with naught but a brief look at the actual games that made the struggle between Nintendo and Sega so defining a part of popular culture of that era.
It also doesn't help that Harris' prose style is workmanlike at
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Karen Mead
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book, but I can see why the reviews are somewhat mixed here. I imagine that most readers attracted to a book like this are interested in video games, and it's only maybe 10% about video games; it's really about the executives at the various game companies in the early '90s and all of their various power struggles. For most of the people chronicled here, video games are a means to an end; we hear very little from the game developers themselves.

It's kind of like a
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Cale
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Considering this is a book about business more than video games themselves, this is an impressively entertaining read. Lightly fictionalized, this tells the story of Tom Kalinske's years at Sega, which roughly parallel the Genesis era, when Sega actually took leadership in the console wars. Told mostly from Kalinske's perspective, it's predictably pro-Sega, although it does take a moderate view of Nintendo's perspective at the time. Harris does a good job of couching everyone's stories with ...more
Olufemi Sowemimo
Feb 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've reached a point in my life that I can no longer justify wasting my precious time forcing myself to finish something I'm so actively disliking. So that's it for Console Wars.

It doesn't surprise me to learn that the author considers himself a filmmaker, because the cheesy (and clearly fake) dialogue throughout this book feels like it was taken directly from a short-lived 90s sitcom. The author also has the frustrating tendency to interrupt his characters' inane witticisms with pages of
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Andrew Obrigewitsch
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, educational
This book was surprisingly excellent. It's about the battle between Nintendo and Sega for video game dominance. Nintendo controlled 90% of the video game market, but Sega had a better product. So through brilliant marketing and crazy off he cuff ideas Sega took 50% of the marketing share.

I thought it would be a rather dull dry book about facts and figures, boy was I wrong.

If you like stories about people succeeding through pure brilliance, this is for you. If you like videogames and their
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Michael
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was great! I would recommend this for anyone who even enjoys videogames.
Peter Derk
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Lots of controversy on this one, eh?

The problem most people seem to be having is that Harris takes what are certainly some liberties with the story, at least with the scenery and exact dialog.

Think of it like this. It's the story of Sega, but the dramatized version. Not necessarily with made up, added-in stuff. But with elements that, though they might be difficult to remember, clear up the story or make it into less a catalog of events, more a coherent narrative. Maybe Kalinsky didn't look out
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N. Pfeifer
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Nearly a decade ago, I read the exhaustive and completely unofficial history of SEGA by Sam "The Scribe" Pettus. Assembled as a series of long reads up for anyone to read on the internet, Sam guided us through the histories of SEGA and Nintendo up through their high-friction war for the console market in the early nineties. It told a story of former Mattel Tom Kalinske, a man who turned an ailing Barbie brand into a girl power super toy in the 80s and was recruited by SEGA CEO Hayao Nakayama to ...more
Daniel Solera
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Are you between the ages of 26 and 40? Are you male? Did you play video games as a kid? Then you will likely love this book, all 576 pages. The subtitle of the book would be more accurate as "The Rise and Fall of Sega" because I would argue that the protagonist is either Tom Kalinske, President of Sega of America during the 90s, or Sonic The Hedgehog.

Blake Harris treats Sega like the underdog they were at the start of the 90s. The Master System was successful in Japan but had made few waves
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Nick Jones
Nov 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-science
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, whoever they are, provided the worst foreword in the history of literature for Console Wars, and I actually considered not reading the rest of the book because of those two idiots. Luckily I persevered, and quite enjoyed this examination of Tom Kalinske's time heading up Sega of America. Yes, I would have liked more attention to have been paid to non-Kalinske topics, especially the period when Sega's Master System was going head to head with the Nintendo ...more
Alex Daniel
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: over-rated
This book has problems. Pitched as a book about Sega and Nintendo, it's predominantly told from the perspective of Sega executives. And by "predominantly", I mean "90%", and by "Sega executives", I mean a guy hired from Mattel to run Sega of America. This can be excused to a degree -- I'm assuming author Blake Harris got most of his information from Tom Kalinske, so it makes sense that the book would be mostly about his experience there.

But there are two things that kill CONSOLE WARS for me: 1)
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Logan
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is rough to get through. I got it through Audible to listen to while at work and heard the author on the Super Best Friend Video Game Sleepover podcast. The narrator did an excellent job and was engaging and a joy to listen to! The actual book? Not so much.

I remember growing up with Sega Genesis and Nintendo; the rivalry running a wedge in between my friendships. It was a time of late night game sessions, arguing who would win a fight between Sonic and Mario and trying to beat that
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Eric Weiss
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book acts as a great anecdotal history for a pivotal time in video games, though it does feel like some artistic licence was taken to make a more consistent narrative. Some of the people involved read more like characters than real human beings, and several pivotal moments feel too perfect for reality. These licenses make for a great read, but made me question the validity of the book just a little.

Even if some of the details were fluffed up for a good story, its still a great read. I've
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Mark
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Note: I received a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads promotion.

As video game nut from 1987 to 1994, this narrative non-fiction account of the Nintendo versus Sega "war" was right up my alley. During that time, you were either a Genesis kid or a Super Nintendo kid. You couldn't be both. This story brought up so much nostalgia, I want to dig out my old games!

Through hundreds of interviews with top executives from both companies, author Blake Harris attempts to piece together the story of
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Rob Warner
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book would have been more aptly named, "The Rise and Fall of Sega," as it puts Sega at the center of the universe. It definitely simplifies the story to Sega of America as hero, with Nintendo and Sega of Japan the villains. In fact, it not-so-subtly places Sega's undoing squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese, painting them as self-righteous, xenophobic dolts that muddled their way to mediocrity in Japan and then pulled Sega of America down with them. Regardless, it's an easy-to-read, ...more
Conor Wilson
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Whether you love video games, insights on the rise (and fall) of businesses, or just a good underdog story, this book is a must read. This book brilliantly tells the story of the brief period of time in the early 90s when Sega was king of the video game world. Not only that, it also shines light on the cast of characters who turned the also-ran that was Sega into the cultural phenomenon whose legacy lives on to this day.

SEGA!
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