I recently finished reading The War of the Consoles. Sega, Nintendo and the Battle that defined a generation, Blake book J. Herris. In this article I leave my impressions.
I almost gave up on the book before it even started because of the silly preface. But when I started the prologue the story was interesting and started to arrest me.
The War of the Consoles it's different than i imagined. It's not a book about games, but about the businessmen behind the two companies that led the war: Sega and Nintendo.
The book focuses more on Sega than on Nintendo, what I find acceptable, since Nintendo was the absolute market leader in the third generation, because the Master System went almost unnoticed in the USA. So it was Sega that had to move and fight to gain market share and eventually get just over half of it.
But in many moments the book looks like a biography of Tom Kalinske, president of US Sega at the time of the console war. In the acknowledgments at the end, it is clear why. Apparently it was Kalinske who paid the most attention to the author, and most likely provided more material. This explains why Kalinske appears much more than the other characters. Nevertheless, reading is still very interesting.
De fate, the book begins and ends with Tom Kalinske. It starts with his arrival at Sega, and ends with your exit. But that also seems acceptable to me, after all, the war only started when Kalinske took over the company. Until then, the Mega Drive was destined to be a mere extra, how was the Master System. And that war only occurred on the fourth generation of consoles. Kalinske left after the launch of Saturn, that already represented the fifth generation, which Sony dominated with the Playstation. So, não concordo com algumas críticas de que o livro acaba abruptamente, ele acaba quando a guerra de fato acaba, com uma terceira empresa chegando ao mercado e assumindo a ponta.
No final das contas eu gostei bastante de The War of the Consoles. Não é um livro que eu recomendaria para qualquer pessoa. Não é nem mesmo um livro que eu recomendaria para qualquer um que goste de videogames. É um livro para quem viveu a quarta geração de consoles: aqueles que tiveram um Mega Drive, a Super Nintendo, ou both; que comparavam qual console tinha a melhor versão de um determinado jogo e participavam de altas discussões para defender o seu console favorito. Estes eu acredito que vão gostar, assim como eu gostei.
Algumas críticas ao livro são quanto aos diálogos recriados que às vezes parecem improváveis, e outras ao viés pro-Kalinske. De fate, o livro talvez force um pouco a barra mostrando Kalinske sempre agindo como um gênio, e todo revés é atribuído às ações da Sega do Japão, incluindo aí o lançamento do 32X, ofuscado pelo Donkey Kong Country, que mostrava que o Super Nintendo ainda tinha muito para oferecer sem precisar de add-ons.
Também li críticas de que o livro trata apenas do que ocorreu nos EUA, ignorando Japão, Europe, America do Sul, etc. Nesse ponto eu também discordo. A guerra dos consoles é algo que ocorreu apenas nos EUA. No Japão o Mega Drive amargou um triste terceiro lugar, atrás até mesmo do PC Engine, que nos EUA foi apenas um figurante.
In Brazil there was definitely no console war. We followed the American fight through game magazines, we waged our own wars defending our favorite consoles, but the fact is that only the Mega Drive was launched in Brazil by Tec Toy since the “start” (actually in 1990, one year after launch in the U.S. and two years after launch in Japan). The Super Nintendo only arrived on Playtronic three years later, in 1993. It, anyway, the vast majority of Mega Drive and Super Nintendo sold in Brazil were from the gray market. Then no, we didn't have console war around here.
But returning to the USA, the question I leave to readers is: who do you think won this war? The War of the Consoles doesn't point a winner. If we analyze the future and what happened in the next generations we can say that it was Nintendo, after all it is still there today as a console manufacturer with the Nintendo Switch, while Sega abandoned the console market after Saturn and Dreamcast, and was just developing games.
On the other hand, if we look at the past, we see that Sega came out of nowhere in the third generation to conquer more than half the market, reaching 55% at a certain moment. Nintendo had to embitter the loss of absolute leadership and divide the market with the new competitor. At this point, we can consider Sega as a winner.
But if we force only on the fourth generation the answer becomes less obvious. Sega launched its console first and managed to steal Nintendo's market, coming to 55% that I already mentioned, but in the end it got lost with the launch of add-ons Sega CD and 32 x, and Nintendo recovered with major releases like Donkey Kong Country and more aggressive marketing, although never as aggressive as Sega's. In the end, Nintendo ended up selling more Super Nintendos than Sega sold Mega Drives in official US numbers.
And here we have another factor that I think is very relevant and almost nobody talks: the Super Nintendo sold in Brazil until 1993 were almost all Americans. I've never even seen a Super Famicom in person, so we can consider that we Brazilians help to inflate Nintendo numbers in the USA. Could anyone claim that we did the same for Sega, but I remember that Sega Genesis in Brazil were the exception. I had one, but did not know anyone but me who had. Most of the Mega Drive that my colleagues had were Japanese models, and a few others were from Tec Toy. Nevertheless, the difference in favor of Nintendo is in the home of 5 million units, and the gray market in South America must not have come close to that.
My conclusion is that Nintendo was the obvious favorite in this war, but Sega took the lead and with good marketing managed to surprise and make a good game, being in front in some moments. But in the end Sega faltered, Nintendo recovered and won the war.
But I don't want to be the owner of the truth, so i ask: is that you, reader, who do you think won the console war? And what is your favorite fourth generation console? Already read The War of the Consoles? What did you think? Say it in the comments.