In the beginning of 1980s there were lots of games and gaming systems available. All of the products targeted for home gamers just weren’t good enough. Some of them were actually garbage. It didn’t take long for consumers to understand what was going on. Remember that E.T. game that is called the worst video game ever? Well, that’s what we are talking about right here.
This however wasn’t the end of home gaming consoles. Nintendo released their Entertainment System in 1983. As they kept in mind all mistakes that earlier game consoles had made with too low quality in released games they were actually able to release a gaming system that was good enough for consumer markets. Gaming became popular again.
The demand for a home gaming console was still there. NES delivered a good quality 8-bit console. They didn’t have so much competition. This was about to change as Sega released their new 16-bit system in 1988. This is when the console wars started to take their form. And this is what the book “Console Wars” is all about.
So as you can figure I haven’t yet read this book all the way through. I have currently read maybe 150 pages of it. The book starts off with a funny foreword by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The book is actually written by Blake J. Harris and it was released in 2014.
As the book starts to describe how Sega entered the game with their 16-bit gaming console Sega Mega Drive it gives a view of what kind of a situation it was in the beginning of this console war. Of course Sega already had some experience of gaming markets as they had released Master System already. What really changed the scheme was the design of Sega’s own mascot Sonic The Hedgehog.
Sega got their idea for the icon of their gaming system through thinking about other cartoon figures and action hero’s of children and young human beings. There were several figures that influenced the shaping of Sonic. We can mention Turtles and Masters Of The Universe and even Barbie dolls. There is something also in these first 150 pages about Electronic Arts which had many very good quality sport games out there in the 1990s. Of course this gave its own influence in this console war.
Finally Nintendo answered and delivered for all of these gamers another even more powerful gaming console Super Nintendo. Of course there is also the battle between all these handheld consoles released. There were handhelds released by Nintendo (Game Boy), Sega (Game Gear) and Atari (Lynx). Game Boy finally became the most popular one of these three. It had some nice games and while Game Gear delivered a color screen their console battery life was way worse than Game Boy’s.
I find this book very interesting. I am glad that it is available for residents in my area (Finland). While it is written in English I still can understand it clearly. I find reading books written in English to work for my benefit. If you like to reminisce over some classic retro systems and are curious about how the actual history was written I can recommned this book for you.
Sam Pettus wrote a book about “the rise and fall” of Sega. This book was published in 2013. Sega has been releasing some games but the latest console was DreamCast. And it was released in 1998. So the book is some years old but if you think of this subject, how Sega conquered and commanded the markets first with Mega Drive and later with other consoles, you find out that this content is not outdated. It might be currently relevant as being part of console gaming history. And in my opinion – this is something that every gamer should know about. So what was and is Sega and what kind of an impact it made on gaming and how it can be seen even today?
This book begins the journey to Segas history from the beginning to the fall. The first console released was SG-1000. I have never seen this console. The breakthrough for Sega came as Master System, a well-known gaming system, was released. This was the beginning of console war between mainly Sega and Nintendo. This happened in 80s as there first appeared to be two greatly popular gaming consoles on the same market. Atari 2600 was already considered older console and it was replaced with these newer consoles. Atari had its consoles but they couldn’t compete with Sega and Nintendo.
Sega was active and brought many machines to use in arcades. As Mega Drive was released at the end of 80s Sega promised to bring, finally, arcade quality gaming to mainstream consumers homes. The war raged on and the battle continued. Nintendo brought SNES to markets a few years later. These systems all failed to compete with PlayStation that conquered home gaming console markets from the middle of nineties to the end of the decade. But that’s enough of 3D gaming and PlayStation. Let’s get back to what happened inside gaming world in late 80s and 90s.
So Sega had Mega Drive, that was called also Sega Genesis in some parts of the world, and Nintendo had to compete with its NES that was not as powerful as Mega Drive. NES challenged Sega by making some quality games as Super Mario was the main character to lead Nintendos effort to beat Sega. Sega later came up with Sonic that was the main character and represented Sega in this battle. Nintendo tried to make games that were more propriate for children. Their main focus was to bring high quality games and make them be as non-violent as can be. And in some way they succeeded in this. Sega released games also that had violence in them.
Sega had its success with Mega Drive. They had a bad strategy with pricey products that consumers weren’t so interested in. So there was SNES released by Nintendo. Sega released 32X and Sega CD that both failed to gain popularity. After that Sega came up with Saturn that had a tough job to compete with PlayStation. And after that Sega gave its very strong effort to bring to the markets potentially the best console ever made. And some definite fans of Sega are saying that they accomplished just that.
DreamCast did sell but it didn’t sell enough as Nintendo had released N64 and PlayStation 2 was on it’s way. DreamCast ended up selling “only” 9 million consoles worldwide. For a comparison I can tell that PS2 sold more than 100 million consoles. So PS2 sold more than ten times more. So it clearly was a failure for Sega. They ended manufacturing the console as it had only been in the market for just a few years. At the same time PS2 sold steadily and continued in producing. There are many reasons why Sega failed. And many of them were not that they made mistakes but in fact the case was that they had to compete with some very good console manufacturers like Sony and also Microsoft that released also their console at the beginning of the century.
This book is very good. I had fun reading it. It tells you the whole story of Sega as a company and opens up some ideas of how they succeeded and finally failed badly and left the gaming console industry. If you are a Sega fan this is an important piece of gaming history. I am myself a big Mega Drive fan beginning from games and music that was made with and for it. This is not, I repeat, a paid or other type of commercial but more like a recommendation for gaming and Sega fans around the world reading this blog. We will be back, soon, with the next article.