Book Review: “Console Wars” by Blake J. Harris

We’re back in July with a new type of post! A book review! Wow! Due to my slovenly nature and general  disdain for sitting around and reading, I’ve never had the chance to share my thoughts and opinions on a relevant book here on the blog. THAT CHANGES TODAY, JACK!

Why am I doing this? Because I think my opinion matters? Nope. Because I am some sort of scholar? NOT BLOODY LIKELY. The reason I’m presenting this book review is because I think this type of historical narrative is interesting and worth reading for video game and sociology fans. Although Console Wars isn’t a straight historical account or, by any means, a history book, it tells the real life story of the momentous war between Sega and Nintendo. This company war was a pivotal moment in video game history that changed the industry quite a bit. Through understanding video game history perhaps we can better understand where we’re going.


“Console Wars” is the latest book by acclaimed author Blake J. Harris, who is best know for the book and film “Moneyball”.  Here’s a small synopsis of the book for those who are unaware:

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But that would all change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a man 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, transformed Sega and eventually led to a ruthless David-and-Goliath showdown with rival Nintendo.


My thoughts: . Essentially Harris is telling the story of two businesses competing for the video game market. Sounds boring, right? Fortunately, Harris has the exceptional ability of making the mundane palatable. By focusing on specific individuals (primarily Tom Kalinske) Harris makes the narrative less about the historic business tactics that occurred and more about the personal struggle to adjust to mounting demands of working in multinational companies and keeping ahead in a sky rocketing industry. In doing so, the history is broken down in such a way that it feels compelling and almost episodic; you feel for the characters in a way that a traditional historical account wouldn’t be able to convey. These are interesting characters to say the least; they’re trailblazers and huge figures in the video game history  whom many know little to nothing about. Like Moneyball, the book is more about the people than it is products. Likewise, the war between Sega and Nintendo is compelling enough to push the book forward

Half way through the book one would assume that Sega is the David of the story, going against the villain Nintendo. However, the book is never unfair to Nintendo or overly sympathetic to Sega. Obviously, Nintendo and Sega are no longer the same companies they were during the 90s, so it’s important to remember them for the companies they once were; Nintendo really did rule the industry with a power glove. Likewise, Sega is depicted as a company at war with itself, which in many led to its inevitable loss of power in the industry. These are interesting insights about these two companies that people may not know. By the end of the book, you may have a different perspective about these two companies.

Sociological Content wise it’s interesting, but shouldn’t be taken for more than a narrative. Console Wars is in no way a research worthy historical account, but it provides very interesting insight into the culture of the video game industry and the community. The story is an account of the 90s and it in many ways reflects the mindsets and beliefs held by the majority in those years. Video games were a different beast in those days and the book gives readers a unique look back that gamers today may have forgotten or not known about.. 

In all, I’d recommend the book to any gamer looking to learn a little more about the history of video games. I considered myself pretty knowledgeable, especially when it came to the console war between Sega and Nintendo, but the book really takes the reader behind the scenes of these two massive companies in a way that other account do not. It’s honestly a compelling book, even if you’re not directly interested in it for the video game knowledge. It is a lengthy read, but it’s quite worth the read.


Of course, you can also wait for the upcoming film adaptation produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I’m sure it won’t completely translate to film, but if Moneyball is any indication of how Harris translates his books to film it should at least be worth the watch.  That’s it. Book review over. Please give me a passing grade, teach!  Maybe I’ll do more book reviews when I read more books.

Other resources!

Buy Console Wars on Amazon!

Back In My Play Podcast Interview with Blake J. Harris



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