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

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

3.9 13
by Blake J. Harris

View All Available Formats & Editions

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 videogame industry—in development as a feature film from Sony Pictures

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the videogame industry. Sega,


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 videogame industry—in development as a feature film from Sony Pictures

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the videogame industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But all that would change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive 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, completely transformed Sega and led to a ruthless, David-and-Goliath showdown with Nintendo. Little did he realize that Sega's success would create many new enemies and, most important, make Nintendo stronger than ever.

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 school yards 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 United States against Japan.

Based on more than two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the tale of how Tom Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punch line into a market leader. Blake J. Harris brings into focus the warriors, the strategies, and the battles and explores how they transformed popular culture forever. Ultimately, Console Wars is 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, give birth to a sixty-billion-dollar industry.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 04/21/2014
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. Agent: Alex Glass, Trident Media Group. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Long before Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were scrapping it out on retail shelves, a small but nimble competitor very nearly unseated Nintendo. Welcome to the Console Wars.This history of the battle for video game market supremacy between Sega's Genesis gaming system and Nintendo's SNES console is the source material for not only an upcoming documentary co-directed by the author, but also a Scott Rudin-produced Hollywood film being written and produced by geek icons Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (This Is the End), who contribute a funny introduction here. The good news is that despite being a bit lopsided in its portrayal of the players involved, the book is a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes thriller in which price fixing, psychotically aggressive marketing schemes and, occasionally, genuine innovation all come into play. Harris posits the fight between the two companies as a David-vs.-Goliath battle between Nintendo, which dominated the video game industry in the post-Atari era, and Sega, which valued audacious ideas, aggressive branding and more mature games. The nominal hero of the book is Tom Kalinske, a former Matchbox marketing executive sought out by Hayao Nakayama to run Sega's American division, which had just 50 employees. Kalinske fought a competitive campaign starting with the "Sixteen Weeks of Summer" in 1991, during which Sega carried out an inspired insurgency to diminish the launch of the SNES. The edginess of the company's advertising and products—think of the speed and scale of Sonic the Hedgehog versus the trusty familiarity of Mario and Link—shook the market like no upstart had before. Meanwhile, Harris also tracks a quirky Icelandic physics student named Olaf Olafsson, who was quietly helping Sony build a giant-killer of their own.It's hard to say whether the book is better than the movie(s), but whether readers are gamers or just enjoyed The Social Network, they'll be spoiled for choice here.
Library Journal
Anyone who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s and had an interest in video games has likely some awareness of the console wars, which author and filmmaker Harris (12 Dates of Christmas) briefly covers here with verve. What such readers may not be as familiar with are the details of the business dealings, risky maneuvers, and all-out corporate warfare underlying so many staples of childhood. This book will either ruin memories or shed new light on them, but either way Harris's well-researched volume is compulsively readable, even if his portrayal of the people involved stays relatively superficial. While the book will appeal most strongly to those who cut their teeth on the classics of the 8- and 16-bit era of video games, Harris's robust discussions of the origins of such pop culture icons as Mario and Sonic—and the complex theater of business machinations—make for equally captivating reading, though at least a passing knowledge of the industry is necessary to appreciate truly the story he tells. VERDICT Nostalgic twenty- and thirtysomethings will likely devour this book, but it's also a solid pick for anyone interested in the video game industry.—M. Brandon Robbins, Goldsboro H.S., NC

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.00(d)

Meet the Author

Blake J. Harris is a writer and filmmaker based out of New York. He is currently co-directing the documentary based on his book, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg. He will also serve as an executive producer on Sony's feature-film adaptation of Console Wars.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 13 reviews.
LTabak1 More than 1 year ago
When I saw the first notices for Blake Harris’s new book, Console Wars, about the battles between Sega, Nintendo and Sony in the 1990s, I immediately flashed back to my own console wars. My elder son was born in 1987, the year after Nintendo launched its first gaming platform, NES, with its addictive new game, Super Mario Brothers. He was three when the first Game Boy hit the shelves. By five, he was begging for both. Regularly, obsessively, unrelentingly. For years. As this encyclopedic recap details, my son was part of a huge new, rapidly growing industry. The book, the result of hundreds of interviews, focuses on the executives at Sega and Nintendo and their often frantic efforts to keep up with the competition and the rapidly shifting technology. While not everyone will be intrigued by the weight of detail, much of it peripheral to the central strains of the story, it's chock full of revelations. For instance, who recalls that in 1990 only 15% of American homes had a computer, while close to 30% had a Nintendo console? The central character, and one supposes source, for the book is Sega executive Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who had helped put Barbie into pink bedrooms everywhere. He steps into what seems an impossible task: competing with the lock hold Nintendo has on the industry, with some 90% of the U.S. market cornered. Nintendo has the best game developers under exclusive contract, retailers in thrall by constricting supply below demand, and the iconic characters of the decade with Mario and his cohorts. The bulk of the story is how Kalinske and his carefully chosen colleagues wrest market share from Nintendo until they actually crown Sega and Sonic the Hedgehog number one. But not for long. As Console Wars expresses again and again, nothing is for long in the fickle world of consumer electronics where today’s hot product is tomorrow’s museum piece.
flapjackashley More than 1 year ago
I have to admit. I thought I knew everything about the fabled 16-bit Video Game Console War between Nintendo and Sega, but this book proved me wrong. There is such a wealth of new information as well as fresh and candid interviews that this is a game lover's dream. And the biggest surprise? Nintendo wasn't Sega of America's biggest opponent. Amazing read and very highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my all time favorite booof all time growing up with the genisis
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stop leaving random posts that say that!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss hand