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Console Wars: Book Review

Console Wars: Book Review


2014-09-24 10.51.51 pm













December 24th, 1990

I was twelve years old and twelve days away from becoming the BIG thirteen. This Christmas was very special indeed. I was getting a “combined” Birthday and Christmas present. Oh boy, was it special! I was sitting there with my family, my hands trembling because I knew exactly what lies beneath that red paper surface.  Just a few hours ago I was playing 720 on the NES on a small color TV and thinking how awesome Altered Beast is going to look. An ARCADE experience right in my living room. By contrast, 720 looks NOTHING like it’s arcade counterpart. My younger sister went to bed and this year I could stay up until midnight and open my gifts. I cared nothing about the other “stuff”, just that giant red present. I was moments away from tearing into this thin red barrier that stands between me and the most memorable Christmas present I’ll ever receive. 11:59 > GO!

It was indeed a Sega Genesis and E-Swat: City under Siege! I probably set a record time for setting it up to the living room TV. I powered up the Genesis, smirked at the “16-Bit” etching on the top because I was an elite, then I heard this. “Rise from your grave”

My jaw hit the floor. Digitized voice, giant sprites, 64 on screen colors out of a 512 palette, and a 16-bit processor (motorola 68k). I was playing a reproduction of the arcade game in our living room. More digitized voice would come out of the famous Yamaha 2612. “Power Up!” and then “Welcome to your Doom”. Man, I was living the dream right here. All year, I was waiting for this moment and it was glorious. My family watched me for a few minutes and then dispersed. I put some headphones on, cranked up the volume slider, and stayed up until I finished Altered Beast and played the first level of E-Swat. Here we are, 24 years later and I remember that day like it was yesterday. That is the kind of impact Sega had on me.



I made a promise with the author of Console Wars, Blake Harris @blakejharrisNYC via Twitter. That promise was a FULL review of his book after I had time to digest and process my thoughts. The topic of video games (retro especially) is something I’m very passionate about like many of you reading this post.

I plan to fulfill this promise and thank you Blake for caring enough to ping me on Twitter about my sentiments of your book.

The Recommendation

On May 22nd, 2014, I’m walking through the Cisco Live world of Solutions in San Francisco and ran into fellow gamer and TechWiseTV co-host Jimmy Ray. Now Jimmy Ray and I have a mutual bond when it comes to things that go fast and video games, so I proceed to tell him about me being a speaker for the first time at live and how I managed to incorporate video games into my presentation. He then tells me about this book called Console Wars and how it just came out. He basically said this and I’m paraphrasing a bit because Jimmy Ray talks so fast. “Dude, you got to get this book it’s really cool”.

So, on that sound advise, I ordered the book from my hotel room later that evening. I actually didn’t realize the book was only out for nine days, I thought it was something that I just missed. Well… I had to wait until the 28th to receive my PAPERBACK (that’s how I roll) and that very night started my journey back in time.

I read it cover to cover (558 pages) in 3 days. By the weekend, I was summarizing my thoughts and my overall verdict was quite different then what I expected.

The Review

WOW! This is one of the best books I’ve read about marketing strategies. That was my overall initial impression. This is very different from what I was expecting. I was thinking it was going to be a geek out retro fest about the deep secrets between Nintendo and Sega and the culture clash between the Japanese developers and American consumers (some of which is the case).

Let me just start of by summarizing the overall premise. David (Sega) vs. Goliath (Nintendo)

Excluding the Foreword (don’t waste your time on this part, it’s just a bunch of ramblings) by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, the book had me hooked from Chapter 1. The tale begins with Tom Kalinske (former Matchbox and Mattel CEO) on a beach with his family. He receives an offer from the then president of Sega, Hayao Kakayama that was too good to refuse.

From this point on your whisked away into the inner sanctum of Sega R&D, this history of Nintendo, excessive costs of licensing/royalty, game concept idea conception, lock out chips, culture clashes, Sonic vs. Mario, 16-bit to 32-bit transition, and the actual marketing proxy wars that took place between all this.

My personal highlights are the following.

  • The origin story of Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Thomas Kalinske’s journey as president of Sega of America
  • Nintendo of America was saved in 1981 by Miyamoto-san’s Donkey Kong (originally a Popeye game) and then Seattle lawyer Howard Lincoln. History would then repeat itself in 1994
  • Japanese dudes smashing stuff
  • Sony Playstation origin story and the greatest marketing presentation ever. Read the book, I won’t spoil the surprise.
  • The various victories of an underdog
  • The creative marketing tactics, which many are still in use today. I should know, I’ve been in sales over 7 years now.
  • The awesome Sonic 2 marketing campaign

I’ll end my review on this simply message. If your into video game history, this book has it ALL. It your into business sales and marketing, this book has some great insight. Enough reading my post, go get this book and start your journey on the road of gaming nostalgia.