Prepare For The Console Wars By Blake J. Harris (Review)

Blake J. Harris made some major waves in the literary and gaming world with the publication of his book Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation, so much so that it is planned to be released as a major motion picture in 2016. Why all the noise? Because Blake masterfully gives us a look behind the scenes of the glory days of console combat between what was seen as the scrappy upstart with Sega against what some would see as the big bully on the block with Nintendo.

Now having grown up during the console wars I can remember with great clarity the almost religious zealotry that fans of both systems adopted. For myself I was pro-Nintendo where one of my Junior High School friends was totally in the Sega camp, not that we came to blows or anything that ridiculous, in fact we would swap systems over the weekend so we both could play the latest titles…but at times there WERE raised voices over the merits of a plumber over a hedgehog.


Blake introduces us to Tom Kalinske and how he was sought out while on a family vacation by the determined Hayao Nakayama, who was impressed with how Kalinske revived the fading Mattel properties at the time like Barbie and Hot Wheels and had created the juggernaut that would become Masters of the Universe. Nakayama felt that Tom was the right man for the job to save Sega’s home console division and possibly even give the Goliath that was Nintendo a run for it’s money.

And boy did Kalinske deliver, taking the job in 1990 by 1994 it is said that the Sega Genesis home console system had 55% of the 16-Bit gaming market. Harris presents a third person narrative by using over two hundred interviews with past SEGA and Nintendo employees, this allows Console Wars to be informative but not dry, and I should also add that the Author fairly presents Nintendo’s view of business at that time, which in their eyes they were making sure that another video game crash didn’t occur by controlling the amount of titles released as well as their quality…as well as making a large profit of course.
One of the more shocking moments was a personal one for me, because the Wal-Mart corporate headquarters is in my neck of the woods and it features prominently in the book as Kalinske tried to get the chain to carry something other than the Nintendo. Console Wars also focuses on the almost separate camp mentality that Sega of America was experiencing with Sega of Japan at the time, instead of working as a cohesive unit Tom was forced to deal with some rampant egos when it came to suggestion on game design…like with Sonic the Hedgehog who originally was a guitar playing punk-like character with fangs and a busty human girlfriend named Madonna. Little by little Kalinske and the team at SOA were able to make their concerns heard, in the book you will be flipping the pages in rapid succession as you feel the stress of how Kalinske and his team were on the razor’s edge of seeing the Genesis as well as the Game Gear stumble and not be able to rise up.

As demonstrated in the videos the key to success came to Tom when he realized they could playfully poke fun at Nintendo as well as aim their titles and system to an older audience. If you have any interest in retro gaming you should head to your local bookstore and pick up Console Wars this very minute or order it over at the Harper Collins site, it’s an amazing look back at those glory days when two companies squared off against each other and we the players prospered.

[Via] Groove Raider


Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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