Console Wars Book Summary - Console Wars Book explained in key points

Console Wars summary

Blake J. Harris

Sega, Nintendo and the Battle that Defined a Generation

4.2 (12 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

'Console Wars' by Blake J. Harris is a non-fiction book that explores the rivalry between Nintendo and Sega during the 1990s video game boom. The book follows the key players behind the scenes and reveals the marketing strategies and creative tactics that shaped the industry.

Table of Contents

    Console Wars
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    Nintendo's rapacious strategies earned it market dominance in the U.S., but also left it vulnerable.

    If you owned a game console in 1990, there's a good chance it was made by Nintendo.

    Nintendo, a Japanese consumer electronics company, completely dominated the market for video games. In the United States at the time, the company claimed some 90 percent market share!

    This dominance stemmed largely from Nintendo's strict control over who could create games for its console. If a company was interested in developing a game for Nintendo, it would have to purchase a game cartridge at a fixed cost of $10 – which meant games always sold for more than $10, regardless whether it was a hit or a flop.

    This policy ensured that Nintendo would collect huge profits on highly successful games such as Street Fighter II, developed by Capcom; it also allowed Nintendo to closely control which companies produced games for its consoles.

    Nintendo obviously was protective of its market clout. When a group of developers tried to create games for the console without Nintendo's approval, the company sued them. For many developers, the threat of losing favor with Nintendo (which could result in being ostracized from the market entirely) kept them loyal and obedient to the company’s dictates.

    However, being a market leader has its downsides. Nintendo had to continuously push new products and take large risks to maintain its position in the market.

    Yet many of the products Nintendo pushed out were of poor quality, and in the rush to release new products, it made many mistakes. For example, the company’s updated 16-bit console, released in the United States in 1991, was not compatible with games from its previous console. This angered many console owners, who were forced to buy their favorite games a second time.

    These sorts of mistakes, combined with the ire of games manufacturers that Nintendo had effectively shut out of the market, created an opening for a new competitor. That company was Sega, and it arrived ready to take advantage of Nintendo's weaknesses.

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    What is Console Wars about?

    Console Wars chronicles the epic, industry-shaping rivalry between video game developers Sega and Nintendo in the early 1990s. In five short years, Sega went from being a widely mocked underdog to U.S. market leader in console games, a dominance that essentially dictated the future path of gaming.

    Best quote from Console Wars

    Video games werent just for kids; they were for anyone who wanted to feel like a kid.

    —Blake J. Harris
    example alt text

    Who should read Console Wars?

    • Anyone who likes to play video games
    • Anyone who remembers Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros
    • Anyone interested in the evolution of the video game business

    About the Author

    Blake J. Harris is a writer and filmmaker who is also co-directing a documentary based on Console Wars. Harris is also the executive producer of a Sony feature-film adaptation of the book.

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