The above sentence is found on the official website for the book “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation” by Blake J. Harris, and having read through the book myself, it’s an accurate description. Upon reading “Console Wars”, I couldn’t help but feeling a bit bloodied and bruised, but proud to have chosen the side that I’m on as a fan. “Console Wars” is not a detached history lesson of the SEGA vs. Nintendo rivalry of the 90’s, it does not read as several wikipedia articles.
Instead, “Console Wars” is a very real and personal story largely told from the perspective of SEGA of America President and CEO Tom Kalinske during the first 6 years of the 90’s. Taking the journey along with Tom, readers also occasionally go behind-the-scenes with Nintendo and Sony, and receive a few extended history lessons on the histories of companies like SEGA, Nintendo, Sony, and others. This mix provides the reader with both factual and emotional reasons for why SEGA and Nintendo did what they did, and as such is the most honest and truest account I have ever read of this period of video game history.
The accuracy in the story’s telling is thanks to more than two hundred interviews with former SEGA and Nintendo employees carried out by the author. Blake notes at the beginning of the book that despite going straight to the source, there will inevitably be inconsistencies between retellings thanks to the passage of time and varying allegiances, but despite this the book does a fantastic job presenting what is the next best thing to being there as it happened.
I mentioned Tom Kalinske, but another important figure I should mention is Al Nilsen, SEGA’s Director of Marketing from 1989 to 1993 [listen to our Al Nilsen interview]. Combined with Tom, the two are the heart and soul of the story, providing SEGA fans personifications of what we loved so much about the company in the early 90’s. Perhaps the greatest thing I took away from reading “Console Wars” was a stronger connection with SEGA as a fan, and having that SEGA passion reignited.
“Console Wars” is a book that has been a long time coming, both in the process of assembling the narrative (which we’ll delve into next week as Blake J. Harris joins us for our Swingin’ Report Show podcast) and the fact that no book like it has not existed until now. It’s refreshing to hear the story from the SEGA perspective, not just because it is the side I root for, but because it is the far more interesting company. Nintendo fans shouldn’t fret, as heavyweights like Howard Lincoln and Peter Main are also featured and their side to the story is fairly portrayed. Nintendo is not painted out as the bad guy, but rather as the company that sticks to established rules and morals.
It’s no secret that during the NES and SNES era, Nintendo controlled many aspects of their company so as to maintain their standard of quality in what games release and how they’re released. SEGA, meanwhile, broke out in 1991 with an emphasis on freedom, choice, and innovation. While Nintendo played it safe, SEGA took chances. The conflict of freedom versus control is nothing new, just look to classic stories like Rocky and Star Wars, but it is the perfect way to exemplify what the story of “Console Wars” is at its core. “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation” by Blake J. Harris receives our highest recommendation, and is a must read for any video game fan.