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Publisher's Summary

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 all that would change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who knew nothing about video games 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 200 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 $60 billion industry.
©2014 Blake J. Harris (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Shane Snyder on 07-22-14

My Childhood: Explained

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who grew up playing video games in the 80s and 90s. I used to own a NES and an SNES and my cousin owned a Genesis (I later moved on to the PlayStation). This book does an excellent job answering all the questions I ever had about this awesome time in the Home Video Console eras.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved how the story played out like a drama and not like a history.

Which character – as performed by Fred Berman – was your favorite?

Fred Berman did an excellent job on all the characters. No one stood out as being exceptionally better (which I think is a good thing)... but I really liked the way he personified the geeky nature of Howard Phillips.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Greg on 01-10-18

Hampered by hamfisted writing and fictionalization

For the most part, console wars a top-down board-room look at the console war, following former Sega CEO Tom Kalinske's short run, where the scrappy upstart challenges the behemoth of Nintendo. It chronicles how Sega of America actually for a short period, bested Nintendo in its largest market despite being a failure in Japan. The book posits, if the console was the same in both countries, the deciding factor is/was marketing and thus gives a blow by blow plays of Sega's ad-campaigns. Along the way, we're treated to asides at Nintendo, Sony, Silicon Graphics, the controversy over video game violence, and so on. Often these are paired down, focusing on detail over dialogue and serve the book well. The tension or antagonism revolves around Nintendo vs Sega, and more so, East vs. West, with the predictable clichés that one would expect around it.

It's easy to criticize boardroom drama as it downplays the importance of proper titles, without Sonic being a good game (delivering unique and well-crafted gameplay) or EA, the Sega Genesis probably would have sunk. Instead, We're mostly treated to market survey data about Sega's perception by young gamers

Sadly the Blake J. Harris has taken the opportunity to create fictionalized conversations around events that happened, and often with stilted dialogue, especially revolving around Japanese businessmen. This might have worked to novelize the events with fabricated conversations if it wasn't jilted by amateurish writing. There's a painful contrivance around it, take for instance:

“Look, I know that I’ve already thanked you a million times,” Kalinske said, speaking more like a friend than a boss, “but you deserve every one.”
“Thank you, Tom,” Toyoda said, sounding more like a friend than an employee.”

The worst are offenses are corny and often cringe-worthy metaphors that plague the book, here's a small selection of some of the many (and I repeat many) recounts.

"Like an actor onstage who remembers his line just in time.”
“like a proud papa bear whose cub has just swiped his first fish out of the water.”
“like a band-aid that’s lost it’s sticking power”.
"like a bar mitzvah, graduation party, and wedding all rolled into one."
“like a child’s artwork on the refrigerator of life: kind of pretty, but also kind of pitiful."
“like a toy poodle barking in the face of a Great Dane.”


It adds an air of unbelievability to the whole affair which serves to discredit some of the more fantastical reveals. Was Sonic indeed a cross-culture creation? Did Kalinske truly entertain Silicon Graphics for Sega only to be squashed by Sega of Japan? Did Sega really blow a partnership with Sony? Was Kalinske responsible for sending Silicon Graphics to Nintendo? These reveals are fascinating but also marred by Blake's desire to create drama.

Lastly, the narration is mostly good although Fred Berman's Howard Phillips is god awful, sounding like a reject impersonation of 30 Rock's Kenneth Parcell character. It'd been intolerable but fortunately Howard "gee golly awshucks" Phillips is a bit player in the larger fray.

Perhaps in defter hands by treatment in movie format, the board-room drama might be hammered into something more palatable.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Mendo Shutaro on 06-21-14

An interesting tale, poorly told

Growing up in the 1990s I was very familiar with the intense rivalry between Sega and Nintendo (I was a Sega kid), especially as Sega went from virtually no market share (5%) to the biggest selling console maker (50%) in the space of a few years. The story behind this incredible turnaround is indeed interesting, but made less so by this book.

The two main issues I have with it, are that conversations (and the book is absolutely full of them) are written as they would be in a novel. Nobody could remember every word to such detail, which makes the book feel fictionalised to a fairly large degree. The author also seems to turn the main players in the story into caricatures.

The other problem is the reader. He mostly sounds like movie trailer voice over guy, except when reading those over the top characterisations, at which point he puts on a variety of camp or silly pantomime voices. It's just too much, and makes the already difficult to swallow text even less believable.

The book also ends very abruptly. This is very much the story of Sega's rise, not its fall, with the launch of the Saturn and the collapse in market share barely mentioned. This is really a shame, as this could potentially have been as interesting a story, especially if it had also included the brief lifespan of the brilliant yet unsuccessful Dreamcast.

A tepid recommendation then, but this should have been so much better.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Thomas Moore on 09-01-15

A bit over done.

As someone who grew up during the console wars, I lived the life of a fanboy to its full. So I was excited to get a chance to hear the story in depth of one of the main contenders.

Im sad to say I was left disappointed, the book was full of over the top drama and hyperbole. Many of the anecdotes felt straight out of bad made for TV movie and felt like they written with a target audience of young teenagers in mind, which given the subject matter felt very misjudged.

3/10 would not bang.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Finn on 12-03-17

Interesting section of history

Overall this is an interesting retelling of the history of early EA, Nintendo and Sega. its informative and shows an interesting perspective. However I struggled a little getting through midway of this book. It's strong points are the start and end. How it's written comes of a little pretentious and egotistic in sections where it is slighty tiresome to keep on pushing on listening. There are golden parts retold within this audio book that are really interesting for management and game development and clever ways sega got the upperhand. But there is also alot of over the top descriptions and sentences that over compensate whats required as a viewer/listener that waterdowns what you are hearing. Overall it's a once off book to listen to, I probably wouldnt review it again. good for history and story behind the consoles that many grew up with for their childhood and thats about that.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Raymond on 11-28-16

Wow!... just... wow!

What made the experience of listening to Console Wars the most enjoyable?

I can remember being a kid in this era, I remember being the target demo for Sega and Nintendo, and hearing the story from the other side was amazing.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Console Wars?

I loved as Tom and the Sega team came up with sonic and stuck it to Nintendo.

Which character – as performed by Fred Berman – was your favourite?

Tom kilinski

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Omg so much yes

Any additional comments?

Anyone even remotely interested in marketing or gaming, this is a must.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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