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Console Wars Audiobook

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation

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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 videogame industry.

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the videogame 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 videogames 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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (213 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Mendo Shutaro Leamington 21/06/2014
    Mendo Shutaro Leamington 21/06/2014 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    86
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    "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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RevPhillipJ 22/10/2014
    RevPhillipJ 22/10/2014 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    6
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    "Console Wars- The True Hollywood story"

    It is no surprise that this book has recently been picked up to be developed into a feature film; It is written that way all the way through the book.

    I was expecting more of a documented history, similar to that of the excellent History of Marvel Comics by Sean Howe, such as: Articles from the time, accounts from the people involved, and an even handed view of each company's actions throughout the book.

    What we're instead presented with is mainly the story of Tom Kalinske, who takes over as the head of Sega of America after the launch of the Genesis (Megadrive in the PAL region) before the release of Sonic the Hedgehog. The book is apparently based on some 200 interviews of employees of both Sega and Nintendo, but is presented as a through narrative, with an omnipotent narrator. I often found myself thinking "How can he possibly remember glancing across a bar and seeing the transfixed look of a waitress when first seeing a Sega gamegear which put him in mind of his early days at Mattell when he reinvented the Barbie franchise--" etc etc. This was my main problem with the book; what is fact, what is opinion, what is embellishment? It's not clear. I was about 9 hours in before I heard an actual quote of a newspaper headline.

    That said, it is an interesting book, part docu-drama, part marketing handbook, part historical text. Give it a go if you're an avid video game enthusiast. However, if you're a Nintendo Fanboy- this book is mainly about Sega, painted as the plucky underdog to a stagnant Nintendo, which I felt was a little unfair, but a smart choice for a story.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Moore 01/09/2015
    Thomas Moore 01/09/2015 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack Dwyer 07/08/2017
    Jack Dwyer 07/08/2017 Member Since 2017
    ratings
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    30
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    "Interesting but flawed"
    What did you like best about Console Wars? What did you like least?

    I found the story to be fairly interesting. Growing up in the 90s, this was a great nostalgia trip and the insights into the creation of the games and their consoles was pretty neat. Unfortunately it all comes across a little false. The book is written as though it was a novel and it all sounds a bit too much like fiction because of that. The narrator also has the unfortunate habit of making all the people involved sound quite sleazy, perhaps that is because they were (some of their actions do come across that way), but it certainly kept me from caring too much about them.


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Fred Berman?

    Someone like Wil Wheaton or Jaleel White would work. You need a narrator who can conjure up those nostalgic vibes but also put on quite a performance. Unfortunately, Mr. Berman doesn't meet the mark.


    Did Console Wars inspire you to do anything?

    Play some old time videogames.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rosie brown 03/04/2017
    rosie brown 03/04/2017 Member Since 2011
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    25
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    "really nice well researched and engaging book"

    a fab trip down memory lane from the 80's and 90's. very interesting to hear what was going on behind the scenes if the industry.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonny Cosgrove 16/02/2017
    Jonny Cosgrove 16/02/2017 Member Since 2017
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    "fantastic"

    just love this - great look at the cycle of the industry over time with an edge

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gareth Belfast, N.I, 13/01/2017
    Gareth Belfast, N.I, 13/01/2017 Member Since 2016
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    6
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    "Stunning reading and research"

    Beautifully read and so many childhood memories when these games were everything to a child, the story behind the scenes of those days in the early 90s just amazing with the amount of detail and research that has been placed for this terrific book
    Probably my favourite book of 2016

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr G M Tucker 03/12/2016
    Mr G M Tucker 03/12/2016 Member Since 2016
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    "Dramatised but enjoyable"

    The story is compelling, and ideal for any video game fan from the late 80s who wants to reminisce, key games consoles and peripherals are talked about creating a nostalgia bomb that any one who was a kid in the 90s will enjoy

    Narration is ok, there is a mild use of accents to help keep up with the different variety of people involved but there are pronunciation errors particularly where foreign language names are used which was a little off putting at times

    Definitely a good and enjoyable listen overall

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Winchester 01/08/2016
    Winchester 01/08/2016
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    7
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    "Best book so far"

    I really enjoyed it. I liked the voices and vocal acting. I thought the story mixed well with non fiction.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr. A. J. Barrett Chester, UK 08/05/2016
    Mr. A. J. Barrett Chester, UK 08/05/2016 Member Since 2015
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    20
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    "Not Great"

    Too dramatised. Bombastic and fast paced but too much hyperbole. Entertaining but cheesy narrator overplays all the jokes, does an excellent cod-japanese accent and makes one character sound like comic book guy from the Simpsons. Almost entirely non technical- explains things with nonsensical similes. Completely America centric. Small factual errors. Omits details to support the narrative to such a degree that it feels unrealistic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Shane Snyder
    Otsego, Minnesota
    22/07/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    MORAGA, CA, United States
    26/06/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "If you love video games..."
    If you could sum up Console Wars in three words, what would they be?

    Classic underdog story


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

    The ongoing battle between Sega of Japan and Sega of the US


    Have you listened to any of Fred Berman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Moments of laughter


    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Rob G.
    Indianapolis, IN United States
    17/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Was hoping for so much more..."

    The rise and fall of Sega of America during the 16 bit era under the leadership of Tom Kalinske, is a fascinating underdog story. Granted, it probably helps if you are a gamer, even more so if you had been one during that time period, but who doesn't love the story of a scrappy group of ragtags who take a nothing and make it something? Unfortunately, as anyone who knows the gaming business knows, this story doesn't have a happy ending, which I won't spoil, even though it's pretty much common knowledge how the whole thing went down by now.

    I hate to repeat what so many other reviewers have written, but I can't get around it. This book reads like a cheesy novelization of a movie, which is no surprise considering it's author, Blake J. Harris is a screenwriter who is co-directing the movie of this book which, if I'm not mistaken, was already in planning before this book was even published. Harris admits in the introduction he may have take some poetic license here and there and it shows. Everything that happens in this book is so dramatic!

    It doesn't help that Fred Berman is performing the heck out of the text. I'm not sure how else one could do it, but he matches groan worthy dialogue with clipped, Comic Book Guy cadences and almost gets to Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's level when reading Asian characters. The audiobook performance really emphasizes how annoyingly this thing was written.

    So why didn't I just stop and hit the "return" button? Because the story is that fascinating to me. While I knew some of the details from years of reading retrogaming magazines and the book about Nintendo, Game Over, this was still very informative. I learned a lot of things, especially when it came to the origins of Sega's entry into the 32 bit era, and that was what kept me coming back.

    The problem is, I have to wonder how much really happened and how much was that aforementioned poetic license. Certainly some things are a matter of record, but so many events happened behind closed doors and out of the public eye. Though I know Harris is said to have interviewed 200 people, the heavily dramatized style of writing causes me to instinctively question what I am hearing.

    It would also have been really great to have seen more involvement from Sega of Japan. I haven't any idea how much Harris reached out to them and, if he did, it wouldn't be a shock to learn he was rebuffed. Still, without getting into too many spoilers, there are a lot of unanswered questions that only the people at Sega of Japan could answer, although it sounds like Tom Kalinske and all his team are probably still looking for those answers too.

    The bottom line is, there's a great story here, it's just unfortunate the wrong person chose to write it. If you can stomach the unnecessary cinematic tone, and the audiobook performance to match, there's some good stuff here. It's just a shame that Harris couldn't have just written a book rather than trying to simultaneously make it into a movie.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Brandy
    26/02/17
    Overall
    "16 bit console wars"

    subtitle: the meteoric rise and ultimate demise of Sega. if you like the history of console gaming this has it all.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Evana
    Bellevue, NE USA
    04/08/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting book with great narrator"

    Herman had the tough task of performing voices from Japan, Iceland, Britain, and the United States. His female voices were also well done. The narration did a wonderful job of adding to an already great story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • 19letterslong
    03/08/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great performance of a great book"

    I'm a huge fan of video game history and I've read a few books on the subject. This is easily one of the best. A must-read for those interested in the subject, especially those with a soft spot for Sega. Bergman does a great job narrating the book and actually manages to deliver a pretty decent Japanese accent, even if the few other accents he occasionally brings out aren't great. I enjoyed it from start to finish. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the subject matter.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • GameMaker
    Portland, OR USA
    22/06/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Trip Down Memory Lane"

    Console Wars gives us all a trip down memory lane, returning us to the mid 80's through the mid 90's, which to me is the "Golden Age Of Video Games". The book focuses mainly on Tom Kalinski, the head of Sega of America, and follows him through the whirlwind ride that Sega took, coming to prominence in the 16-bit wars only to lose it all in 32-bit.

    I really really enjoyed being taken back and re-living that era of video games. And along the way I learned tons about all the corporate strategies and deal-making and such that was going on. Fascinating stuff. Also the reading of this book is outstanding.

    The only downside to me is that the book somehow doesn't take it's own advice, namely that "The name of the game is the game". In other words, the book gives us so much detail about what the heads of the companies are doing, what their strategies were, what the marketing department was doing, how they were coming up with their slogans and advertisements, and on and on. But what they talked surprisingly little about were the games! What would have been much MORE interesting to me was more of a focus on the development of the games, how the games were received by players, discussions about game genres and technologies and peripherals and all that stuff. THAT would be been a lot more engaging.

    But anyway... it's still a really good and interesting book. Highly recommended for fans of video games who are interested in some of the history and behind the scenes stuff of that era.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Fond du Lac,WI USA
    17/11/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A book for anyone who had a snes or genesis"

    I heard from this book recommended on the /filmcast podcast multiple times last year and finally got around to listening to it the last couple weeks.I as a child started with an SNES when I was 10.And eventually a PS1 when I was 15.I never owned a Sega console.I honestly never understood why people chose Sega over Nintendo.But this book throughout enlightened me and anyone else who reads it why people did.I had no idea Sega Japan and Sega America had such different viewpoints on running the company.I appreciated Sega employees could accept a SNES controller was better then a genesis controller.I never realized in 1993 that Sega America had 55% of the market at that time.The book brought back good memories of me and friends watching the Sega commercials with them mocking Nintendo.I had a friend who had a game gear and also a 3DO console that we played "Demolition Man" on.

    The book went a little dense on Sega America employee's lives.But all the details make you realize how special those employees like Tom Kalinske were at that time.I never knew at one point,Sega and Sony and almost made a console together instead of going separately.I didn't know the Genesis was so much more important to Sega's success over the Saturn.

    In closing,the book may not be for everyone.But for anyone who's played video games in there child hood around this time period, your going to want to read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Louis
    06/11/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "As a game developer, this book was really boring."

    Excruciatingly detailed writing to bloat an uninspiring story of cooperate warfare.

    Definitely not about game development or console development as I expected.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thomas
    Yorktown, Japan
    03/11/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So One-sided it's Hilarious"

    This is a very difficult book to rate. First, the good.
    Console Wars is written in a novel-like structure based on the result of over 200 interviews. This varies from the documentary-like structure of the standard, objective, and excellent "The Ultimate History of Video Games," which, despite its rather pretentious title serves up a holistic scope of computer games, console and handheld games, up to the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. It let each side tell its tale without adding an opinion other than those quoted in the interview. Here in Console Wars, we see everything basically through Tom Kalinske's eyes via the third person although the perspective changes to others at times. This story structure makes it fun to listen to the awkward beginnings of the Toy Industry legend's story. And it's a compelling story. Unfortunately after enough time has passed, we begin to doubt the reliability of the narrative style. Which brings me to the bad.
    This was a biased, unbalanced, hilariously one-sided book. When I say one-sided, I don't just mean Sega Vs. Nintendo. It's like episodes of Twenty-Four where Jack Bauer can do no wrong. Everyone is against Tom Kalinske: Sega of Japan, Nintendo, retailers, marketers, Walmart, Toys R Us, the American people, the Japanese people. There is so much use of hindsight that the writer rearranges as foresight by Kalinske that one would think him to be chosen by God to lead Sega to victory. And gosh, he would be able to do it if Sega of Japan wasn't so conservative, so controlling, so out of touch, if the games they made weren't so great. The innovation by the Sega tech crews in Japan is given a slight mention and it's usually blindsided by Prophet Tom's "you missed a spot" comment which is the "truly" important part of the innovation and the "true" secret of its success. An openly racist character, Steve Reyes is quoted openly calling Japanese "Japs" and calling a Sega of Japan executive a banana "yellow on the outside and white on the inside." to which Tom remains commiserating as "mirroring his own frustration." He calls Nintendo's practices un-American at one point, lambasts the admittedly horrible Super Mario movie. The biggest piles of BS were Tom Kalinske giving a proposal to Sega of Japan executives to which apparently they cussed him out calling him crazy. I have lived in Japan for 15 years and in every single business situation I have ever been in, there has been no yelling save for Parliamentary proceedings. That is a sign of weakness. Showing any sort of open emotion especially to your inferiors is an easy way to lose face. Another BS story was the one where another Sega of America exec goes out with Sega of Japan employees to a Fugu or Japanese puffer fish restaurant. They dare the American to eat it and he does but then they refuse to for fear of death. This is utter BS! Fugu is among the most expensive and delicious foods out there. Japanese sushi chefs have to undergo rigorous training for all possible foods to grace a bed of rice. Fugu isn't the only potentially poisonous one. Eel blood is poisonous so eel must be thoroughly cooked before. There is no way Japanese people would be afraid of fugu if prepared in Japan by a qualified chef. The last was the hilariously "high moral ground" Sega took when it decided to establish a rating system which wasn't expected to be enforced by stores at all, it was just backpedalling to save it's own ass when Senator Joe Lieberman began looking into violence in video games. The letter Kalinske wrote to Nintendo to also "take part in this effort to shield our children from violence" was so hypocritical I laughed out loud. Sega lets utter smut like Night Trap and Sewer Sharks and the original bloody version of Mortal Kombat onto its consoles, which is fine. However, it did nothing to rate these titles then until they felt they might get in trouble and them claim the high ground against Nintendo? who cut out the bloody scenes at great financial loss? BS!

    Despite these BS parts, it is a compelling read. Prepare to wince at the Japan hating, the constant marketer-like appeal to make every sentence overly snappy, the outright BS.
    But also prepare to marvel at the journey of Sega of America, which really made a poignant effort to combat Nintendo not always cleanly but always in a determined fashion. Tom Kalinske, despite the writer's hero-worship of him is actually a great guy who really did turn around things at Mattel and Sega and who despite all the exaggerations in this book, deserves our respect and gratitude for helping, through his battle with Nintendo to up the ante for video games worldwide.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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