Rating: 4 stars
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.
Reading this book was a nostalgic experience. Growing up, one of the first video games I ever played was Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember it as if it happened just yesterday and ever since, I loved video games. So reading this book was quite an experience for me.
But I didn’t enjoy it just for nostalgic reasons either. Console Wars took me into the world of Sega and Nintendo, introduced me to the people who made both companies a success, and made me even more enthralled with the video game universe. I enjoyed it because this book was very real to me. I felt as if I experienced both company’s success right in front of me as everything was happening. From seeing Kalinske resurrect Sega from the ground up to Nintendo taking the video game industry back by storm with the release of Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. I felt as if I was in the video game world, meeting all of the key players who made the video game industry thrive.
I also enjoyed Console Wars because there was a lot of thought put into writing it. Harris put a lot of research into this work, interviewing people from Nintendo and Sega who were a part of the video game industry during that time. Having this information made reading this book that much more enjoyable, allowing the reader a better understanding of how the video game industry came to be so popular in the world today. It also allowed me a glimpse into their lives, seeing everything in the video game industry in a completely different light.
The one downside to this book was the pacing. When I first started reading it, I really dived into the story, marveling at all of the little details and feeling nostalgic. But as I continued reading, I sometimes found myself slowing down, not wanting to continue. Not because I didn’t find what I was reading to be interesting, but because I found the pacing to be extremely slow at times. I found myself to be really interested in what I was reading, but found some of the conversations had between rival key players to be unrealistic. Or I’d find myself overwhelmed with the information presented to me to where I’d need to take a break from reading. Then, there were also times where transitioning from one company to the next was completely awkward. There were a lot of instances where the story went from conversations going on at Sega to all of a sudden being with the guys at Nintendo without any sort of warning. At the beginning of chapters, I understood it and was completely fine with it. But when it happened from one paragraph to the next, it was a little weird sometimes.
Console Wars was a very enjoyable read that reminded me of my childhood. Of the many days I spent playing video games, having fun and just being a kid.