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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 (224 )
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4.5 (213 )
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 (52)
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Mendo Shutaro Leamington 21/06/2014
    Mendo Shutaro Leamington 21/06/2014 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
    86
    ratings
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    27
    16
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Story
    "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
  •  
    Thomas Moore 01/09/2015
    Thomas Moore 01/09/2015 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    35
    9
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "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
  •  
    Aaron Austen 13/01/2018
    Aaron Austen 13/01/2018 Member Since 2016
    ratings
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    1
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    Story
    "Amazing"

    So interesting, loved it made the drive to work more fun. Thanks very much. Aaron

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack Dwyer 07/08/2017
    Jack Dwyer 07/08/2017 Member Since 2017
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    30
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "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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    13
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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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    7
    5
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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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    Story
    "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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    3
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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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    1
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    Story
    "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.


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Ryan
    03/05/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Just a bit too much Hero-worship"
    Any additional comments?

    Ok, so normally I'm they type of person not to even bother with a review, but I feel this one needs a bit of a warning.

    Let me preface with, I liked this book, and would read it again.The preformance is excelent, and even the over-the-top dialog is fun.

    That said, This is one exceedingly biast book. The author seems to have a love affair with Tom Kalinske, and the hero worship can get a little grating.

    "Hey guys, remember when Tom Kalinske predicted the coming of violent video games years before they happened? Remember how cool he was when he helped create the Nintendo 64 to spite SoJ? He helped cure AIDS y'know!"

    I don't know how historically accurate any of the book is, but if you were to tell me that the author was Tom Kalinske himself using a pen name, I would not be surprised.

    I do recommend this book, especially in the audio version.The performance is quite enjoyable. However, expect to be hit over the head every few chapters with how amazing Kalinske is and how SEGA's downfall was Japan's fault entirely.

    2 of 2 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.

    2 of 2 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
  • Greg
    Springfield, OR, United States
    10/01/18
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 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
  • 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
  • Timothy Tripp
    Dallas, TX United States
    18/01/18
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What a great read!"

    I loved going behind the scenes with not only Sega but also Nintendo and Sony. While they viewed each other as the villain sometimes the book never does. It shows the good, the bad and the amazing in each company. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s like me these games are part of your history. Learning the rest of the story was a blast!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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