The Reading List: Console Wars

Mon, Aug 13, 2018 4-minute read

_The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! _

Oh. My. Word.

I had no idea that the early 90’s was chock full of video game console intrigue. I got my first console in 1989 when I was four years old. It was a Nintendo Entertainment System and it opened my eyes to a world that I would pretty much belong to forever. That wonderful world of video games and the joy that they can bring on a rainy day or when you want to group up with your friends and attack virtual monsters together. I wasn’t just a Nintendo fan though. I was into all the consoles and was one of the lucky kids that had a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis at the same time.

I had no idea that those two consoles were probably hurling insults at each other when I wasn’t looking.

Console Wars excellently details the story of the scrappy little company that could, Sega, and it’s fight against the juggernaut that was Nintendo. There were so many shenanigans between those two companies back then. From undercutting prices to social engineering for secret info. Nothing was off the table when it came to Sega’s attempts at crushing Nintendo at its own game. The thing that shocked me the most about the whole story is that Nintendo was a bunch of buttholes when it came to controlling their product. They had licensing restrictions, quality restrictions, and they even made you purchase the cartridges from them at $10 a pop. Now some of this wasn’t such a bad idea considering that the video games industry almost completely fell over. Without Nintendo, it’s likely we wouldn’t have the same landscape we had today. They put in a lot of effort to make sure that no one was sold garbage so they could keep making awesome stuff.

Sega is the main character in this book, at least the way I read it. The book is written as a narrative pieced together over countless interviews. Obviously, Blake Harris wasn’t there when all these conversations were being had, but he put together a realistic and compelling background to each of them so it feels like he could have been. He is a fantastic storyteller and made this a book I couldn’t put down whenever I started reading it. I feel like I know the brave folks at Sega who really pushed the brand forward when it was struggling to find its place. The Sega of America team really knew what it was doing and if Sega of Japan had just gotten out of the way, who knows where they would be now. The Genesis was an amazing system, and I believe the Saturn could have been as well SoJ would have just let SoA make the deals they needed to make.

I highly recommend giving this book a read. It’s easy to read this stuff and think about all the good decisions that were made in order to get Sega over 50% market share, but those decisions were also incredibly risky if you consider them. The folks at Sega were gutsy, and that’s what really made the brand stand out. I actually want to go up in the attic and pull out my Genesis and walk down memory lane. I would also love to know about the “almost” renaissance that was the Dreamcast but the book stops short of that. Either way, it was still fantastic and I’m sure I can do my own research to dig deeper.

Read it! Console Wars - Blake J. Harris

Next Up: Artemis - Andy Weir