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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, '19, 9:02 pm 
So a book that came into my possession around last holidays was The Console Wars by Blake J. Harris.

The book is an account of the struggle between Nintendo and Sega over the North American video game market that mainly focuses on the years surrounding the release of the Genesis all the way up to the failure of the Sega Saturn, centered around the tenure of former Mattel executive Tom Kalinske as president of Sega of America. In a way, it's basically an addendum to David Sheff's Game Over, which focused mainly on Nintendo's side of the story. It offers the perspectives of Nintendo, Sega of America, as well as the occasional divergence into what Sony was doing after Ken Katuragi dragged the rest of the company into the video game hardware market by its feet.

While the book's main focus is on Sega's struggles for dominance over Nintendo in the United States market (as Nintendo was never even close to being matched by Sega in Japan), the book does give some background as to how Nintendo managed to gain a powerful foothold in the North American video game market- as Japan never suffered the home video game crash of the early '80s, all of Nintendo's potential console rivals had collapsed and there was nothing to stop Nintendo from putting its huge piles of Donkey Kong money to work in filling the huge gap left behind, and how Sega had to struggle to make up for lost ground, especially after a series of bad partnerships meant that the Master system was barely a blip on the scene in the first place.

Among other, things, the book is a catalog on how Sega had to capitalize with every misstep that Nintendo made in order to maintain some kind of parity, such as trying to cast Nintendo as the "kiddie company", courting the various enemies that Nintendo had made through its draconian retail and license policies, such as Tengen, rental companies like Blockbuster, and even Disney after it was left holding the bad from the disaster that was the Super Mario Bros. Movie. However, the book isn't shy about relating all of the stuff that was going on at Sega at the time, such as how one of their first advertising campaigns went over with such a heavy, sloppy thud in the focus groups that it prompted teenagers to defend their parents.

On top of the main business struggles between Sega and Nintendo, the book also covers many of the side stories surrounding the pair of competitors, such as how Ken Katuragi dragged Sony into the industry by making under the table deals with Nintendo (Ken designed the SNES's SPC700 sound chip), how Tom Hardiman brought Rare back into Nintendo's orbit with Donkey Kong Country after convincing Hiroshi Yamauchi to give him $3 million, or "the cost of one bad commercial". Or all of the dirty details of how the Super Mario Bros. Movie was basically doomed from day 0 to be a disappointment, as well as Tom Kalinske having to deal with the Senate hearings on video game violence after Mortal Kombat and Night Trap.

(Also, relevant to us, it identifies the person who localized Phantasy Star II as Ed Annunziata, who would later create Ecco the Dolphin.)

If there's any major weakness to this book it has to do with the fact that Blake J. Harris has a tin ear for dialogue and doesn't know it. Apparently, based on his interviews with the various persons involved, Harris decided to insert "reconstructed" dialogue based on various scattered meetings that the interviewees took part in throughout various parts of the book, and it rarely rises above the level of mediocre, with some of it being some of the worst kind of cliché-ridden Hollywood boilerplate you'd find in a first draft of a script. What makes this especially galling is the fact that these insertions are entirely unnecessary as well, as the base story of the battle between Nintendo, Sega, and eventually Sony is already so fascinating and, at times, utterly hilarious.

The other part of this book that needs to be taken with a grain of salt is the characterization of the feud between Sega of America and of Sega of Japan. While the book tends to paint Sega of Japan as being almost terminally cautious, hide-bound, and risk averse, this picture of SoJ is largely painted only by the brushes of Tom Kalinske and his closest colleagues, all people who think that they might have been able to win the console wars if they hadn't been "kneecapped" by the home office. However as it's extremely difficult to get a lot of the people who were at Sega of Japan in that period on the public record, we are only seeing one side of the story, and we don't have SoJ's perspective on what Kalinske and his people were getting up to.

All in all, it's something worth reading- the story is great, even if the writing, at times, is not.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, '19, 12:27 pm 
Nintendo Vs Sega ? What is that ? I don't know any of these two enterprises !! :rofl:


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