Console War

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G.Silver
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Console War

Post by G.Silver »

So there's this new book out that is apparently a pretty good history of the Sega/Nintendo rivalry called Console Wars and is the source material for that movie you've probably already all heard of. I had no idea it was "based on a book," much less one that only got published a week or so ago. Anyway, Sega Nerds has been doing some podcasts with key Sega people from the time and some interesting stuff comes up!

The one that made me go "I will stop listening to this and post to the GHZ" is the cast with Al Nilsen (marketing), where he talks about the argument over naming Tails "Tails" and not "Miles Prower" which I think we can all agree was a smart move. Apparently Sonic Team was quite adamant about Miles Prower and marketing somehow had to convince them not to do it. I've linked to the relevant section here. It's probably better to just listen to it, but spoiler: They got the whole Sonic Team together and read them a god damn bedtime story.

They also interviewed the author of the book and Tom Kalinske, the CEO of Sega from the time, who I have to say as far as video game CEOs go sounds like a really nice guy, although not much Sonic cred--he couldn't even remember the name of the Sonic game that got "split in half!"

Al Nilsen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-P3N5FmubY
Tom Kalinske: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA-SUVeR0Z4
Book Author: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=171J0JS_jZY

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Dr. BUGMAN
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Re: Console War

Post by Dr. BUGMAN »

Yeah, that misfit origin of his name made the character more endearing, that's for sure. It made a lot sense when you had no foreknowledge of Japanese mythology (which was pretty much all us in '92), where multiple-tailed foxes are nothing out of the ordinary; so from SoJ's stand-point, that'd be like naming a sasquatch "Feet". That ST responded as they did to the persecution story (was it Judy Toyota that shed a tear?), though, was cute. Human condition, and all that jazz.

Yasushi Yamaguchi hasn't been interviewed, has he?

As for the movie, well, they're are actually two in the works: a documentary and a film adaptation, starring my eternal nemesis Seth Rogen. Frank Cifaldi has reviewed the book here. Let's hope they streamline the dialogue, for goodness' sake.

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G.Silver
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Re: Console War

Post by G.Silver »

According to some of the Sega people who read it, they felt like the dialog was spot on and could hear the lines in their heads as if they were being spoken right then by their old co-workers. Maybe they really did talk like that!

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Re: Console War

Post by big_smile »

Interesting tale about Tails! Didn't that story work itself into the Japanese canon? I remember seeing it on Sonic Channel, but I think it was in the Japanese Mega Drive manual as well.

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Re: Console War

Post by Dr. BUGMAN »

I remember it showed up in the Sonic X anime, albeit his tormentors picked on him for his mechanical savancy rather than his deformity. (I imagine the "What's your name" exchange is copied verbatim from the formative story)

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Re: Console War

Post by G.Silver »

So I read through the whole book, and I agree with the assessment from others that the best thing about it is the reflection of what the atmosphere at SoA was, and what they were trying to accomplish. We all know this story (or the gist of it) but the details really do make a difference. If I have a particular complaint about the way it's told it's that certain events seem to be split up more than makes sense, a chapter will end on a "cliffhanger" and then that thread will be picked up again much later, and often in a way that no longer really makes it so interesting, or sometimes exactly what is so interesting about a particular thing is relevant to the book's subjects but lost on me.

For instance, there's a lot of time spent early on about Buster Douglas Boxing, a game that already existed and SoA paid to have Douglas inserted. They had purchased the licence to Douglas specifically because he had beaten Mike Tyson, so this was considered a "marketing move" of some sort against Nintendo's Punch Out. Kalinske and Nilsen go to a bar to watch Douglas's big title bout (or something) right before the game launches and are dismayed to see their "champ" out of shape and easily defeated, but they decide to "own" the defeat anyway and consider it some sort of in-joke. This is never elaborated on except to say that they released Buster Douglas in the Sega Classics line, presumably "as a joke" that I sure don't get--the game is terrible. Seriously, just look at it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGDdn2qNDOA The idea that it would be some sort of "Punch Out Killer" in the first place is the biggest joke of all.

This does lead into what is good about the book, the environment at Sega, but boy, it becomes clear that despite an early assertion that "the name of the game is the games," the book is about marketing, and that's what SoA did well and it's where their "legacy" would live on, Sony would go on to beat SoA at their own game and all those "older" gamers who and expanded market size that Sega curried favor with rolled right along in that direction. Another thing I think is interesting is seeing where all those SoA people went after (or during) the Genesis days, and who else Sega brought in, there were efforts to "headhunt" guys over from Nintendo, including Howard Philips (!!) after he left Nintendo. Steve Race, who I always knew as the US Playstation launch guy, was also closely involved with SoA's early successes. It's funny to me that game publishers used to try to keep their programmers and designers "secret" so that other companies wouldn't hire them away, but it's often the executives that we see shuffling visibly around from one company to another, seemingly without "loyalty" of any sort.

The Nintendo angle is really interesting, although the perspective that the book tries to convey is that Sega is making good games while the "antogonist" Nintendo is like "these games are mostly garbage," but if you look at the games that the book does mention as notable, besides Sonic (Taz Mania, Jurassic Park,there aren't many), it's easy to see Nintendo's perspective here, and that maybe historically the Genesis really did have worse games. That said, Aladdin is cited as a Sega title that did get Nintendo's attention and part of what got them rolling on Donkey Kong Country.

But most of the games I loved are the ones the book doesn't talk about, and even if many of these are not "first party" titles, SoA still published them: Gunstar Heroes, Landstalker, Silpheed, Crusader of Centy, Dynamite Headdy, Ristar, Shinobi, Beyond Oasis, Ranger-X, and so on. The book doesn't even talk about many of SoA's own investment titles like Geendog or Chakan or even Vectorman. The subtitle of the book is "the Battle that Defined a Generation" but besides Sonic, the games that defined my adolescence were just blips on SoA's radar and not a major part of what even the people who were selling them consider a big part of the narrative. (Or, maybe they were just left out--it's already a huge book!)

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Re: Console War

Post by Segaholic2 »

I'm mildly curious about this book. Nintendo is cast as the antagonist in this narrative? Does the book focus more on Sega or Nintendo? Is Sega represented as the plucky underdog taking on the giant asshole behemoth or something like that?

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Re: Console War

Post by G.Silver »

Well, it's not "Sega" so much as Tom Kalinske as the "protagonist" set with the task of turning Sega into a viable business, which does mean being the plucky underdog and heavily focuses on Sega, but there are a lot of Nintendo-specific sections and there's a lot to sympathize with there. It's definitely a Sega book but I think both are represented pretty fairly. I put antagonist in "quotes" for a reason.

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