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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.



Retro Gaming Gomez (RGG)

Retro Gaming Gomez (RGG)

RGG, I like the sound of that! I just back from Cisco Live in San Francisco and what an AWESOME time it was. This year I was co-hosting a session with my homie Matt. The session title was “Software Hot, Hardware still Cool” and was SDN related. We had a blast working on this project together and aside from our session time going from 90 minutes to 60 minutes, it was an excellent experience.  So, part of my shtick with “Hardware” was drawing a contrast between software and hardware. It’s impossible to extract the full potential of hardware without excellent software. Great software will ALWAYS sell the hardware. This is true in the video game industry as well as the network infrastructure business. I love an example cited in the book (Console Wars). “the console is the movie theater, but it’s the movies that kept people coming back for more” Another good example of this is when I switched to Mac/OSX. I had great hardware, but the software (Vista!) was terrible. My system would BSOD all the time. Windows 7 was WORLDS better and I hear Windows 8.1 is pretty good, but since I moved to OSX, I honestly have not had a reason to migrate back to Windows. For me, OSX just seems to work better for MY intended purposes. In the networking world, we recently posted NX-OS 7.0 for the Nexus 6000 platform. This version of code woke 22 great features up in hardware that were taking a nap. One of which is a latency, buffer, and micro-burst monitor. In the video game world, you look at a 7th generation console like the Xbox 360. Gear of war 1 looked amazing when it was released and we all thought, wow! The graphics, textures, and lighting could not be any better… WRONG! Look at Gears 3. It’s hard to believe they are the same console, that’s how far advance the graphics became with software that unlocked the maximum potential of the hardware.


Another 7th generation game console, the PS3 has another good comparison. Resistance Fall of Man vs. Last of Us.



You get my point, here. To quote one of my favorite movies Tron Legacy: “I Took the System to it’s Maximum Potential” – CLU

So, this story I told is just a backdrop to my “real” post. I like the sound of “Retro Gaming Gomez”. I think I’ll start a YouTube channel dedicated to retro games using this name. I have a specific theme for the channel, but that is something I want you to linger on. I want this channel to be unique and intriguing. Thanks Johnny (@HCGSHOW) for the encouragement and advice. 

So, what qualifies me to bestow such a grand title as RGG upon myself. Well, I think pictures are worth a thousand words and right now I only have a little over 400 words. Let these AWESOME pictures fill some white space.



Panoramic view of game room, complete with SMB3 title song:

This is but a sample of my retro gaming passion. I have played (and finished) thousands of games beginning with my 1st generation console the woodgrain Atari 2600 to current 8th generation consoles like the Playstation 4 and Wii U. In fact, unlike many collectors. I actually try to play and finish EVERY game I add to the collection. Now, the most important thing that you MUST know about me. Especially if you intend on subscribing to my show. I love ALL games. This is my personality. I NEVER cared WHO (Sega or Nintendo) made something, I loved them ALL. Marketing was VERY creative in the early 90’s, but both Sonic and Mario were great games that sold the hardware. I just wished at the time I could afford EVERYTHING, but that was not in the cards. THERE WILL BE NO FANBOY TALK, PERIOD. This personality trait transcends gaming for me. Android/iOS, Cisco/Juniper (OK I’m a little biased here…), Microsoft/Apple, VHS/Beta, Hammer/Screwdriver, etc… In general, I love it all, it’s just that certain tools work better at specific jobs. 

So, stay tuned for the launch of my “official” YouTube show titled Retro Gaming Gomez.

Gamers, Stay Frosty!