October 5, 2020

Console Wars Are A Slice Of Gaming History

Console Wars

Console Wars reminded me of a two-part post I did a while ago. Two separate posts about the history of gaming consoles, starting with the early history in the ’70s. And ending with the current favorites on the market. Sony’s PlayStation 4. I’ll share both of them here for you. Part 1 and Part 2. Sadly we currently don’t own any SEGA nor Nintendo games. But we do have other various options. Just go to IndieGala http://indiegala.com and take your pick. We have a fantastic selection that would satisfy even pickiest of tastes.

It was a great topic to write about, and it’s precisely that topic that got me to Console Wars. The latest documentary of the legendary war between two of the biggest giants. SEGA and Nintendo.

And it’s not like I haven’t even brought up SEGA’s most famous intellectual properties before. For instance I did a rather cute post about the most recognizable gaming mascots on the planet. And guess which mascot made it to the list? Indeed, Sonic The Hedgehog.

Console Wars

Console Wars Is Truly A Fun Movie

It’s informative and fun to watch, I must say. Although I wasn’t most familiar with the leading executives in both of the companies, the documentary had a nice way of explaining them.  Like Tom Kalinske for instance, and his longtime colleague Hayao Nakayama. I loved Kaline’s story of recruitment from Mettel to SEGA. His story of joining the company, his role there and his struggle to understand the different „modus operandi“ of Japanese business.

And of course, there’s the basic face to camera interview, in the documentary, which is pretty standard for any modern documentary. Yes, that concept works for most of the time. However, in between, you’ll find a fantastic game-like narration of the story, which only immerses you into the narrative even more. The story is being told through a fantastic visual style reminiscent of an actual game. And to tell you the truth, I love that the style coincides with the topic of the documentary.

But, the main gist of the movie is the war for dominance between Sega and Nintendo that started in the early ’90s. And that rarely changes in the narrative. For much of the ’80s Nintendo had a sort of monopoly on the industry (with up to 95 of the share of the market), and SEGA was about to change that. Thanks to the documentary, we understand how that happened, and why.

Console Wars

New Character To Shake Up The Console Wars

Console Wars also presents a fantastic insight into the inception and eventual birth of the beloved character Sonic The Hedgehog. Are you happy that it’s a blue, lightning speed hedgehog as a mascot? Because it could have been an egg. I’m not joking about that by the way. It was either an egg-like character (similar to Gudetama) or a blue hedgehog. You see, the idea behind Sonic was to make another Mario. The iconic, memorable character that would appeal not just to small children, but to older kids and teenagers. And it worked like a charm. But the creation of Sonic is just a fraction of the movie. If anything, the main takeaway from Console Wars is the fact that it’s a hidden lesson in modern advertising and leadership. You can learn so much on that if you just pay attention.

Also there’s an emphases on improving the product, not just the sale strategy, which I admire. There’s even an interesting hint on the war about the colors of both Sonic and Mario. Which of these two games had more vibrant and beautiful colors. Not just interesting and innovative gameplay. Well, at least that was the message I received from the movie. How to succeed in crushing your competition. Through perseverance, through ingenuity and good marketing strategies. Sure, the quality is always good to have, but your smart businessmen in sharp suits are a bonus.

Console Wars

Tactics That Worked For A While

And that advertising masterclass I mentioned earlier, well it didn’t solely apply for Sonic. Oh, no. Market research, tech development, sales strategies, government censorship, it’s all there and more and for both of the companies in question. However, I felt that the documentary was picking sides. And for the most part, the siding was leaning towards SEGA. Nintendo is portrayed as some sort of evil dictator that needed to be taken from the pedestal. And show them who the real boss in the USA is. But other than that, the movie was quite decent in pretty much everything else. It was fast-paced, engaging, fun and easy to follow even for those who aren’t already familiar with this part of history. People like me.

But yeah. For those of you who grew up with both of the consoles, it’s nice to look into the behind the curtain details about them. Not just on the development and marketing campaigns. But also on the struggles within the company to become unified in the decision-making process. Which I feel is in one way responsible for the downfall of SEGA for instance.

Sonic

New Kids On The Block

And much like with any great empires, there’s a rise in the power and influence and there’s the eventual downfall.  The last bit of the documentary is devoted to precisely that. The mistakes that SEGA did, and the stir up that SONY did with their much cheaper product. And when I pitched this movie to my husband, he said exactly that. Yeah, it was a good war all right, until SONY meddled in and took over the market.

But I also got a sense of cockiness and slight confusion on both sides. First when Nintendo was dominating the market with its monopoly. In their own cocky, arrogant way, they thought they were invincible. And also Nintendo was pretty vicious about any possible sight of competition. Well, a similar thing happened with SEGA but later into the the 90’s. But yeah, without going into spoiler territory, their decline was also a product of the confusion within the company. And that can’t save even the best executive teams in the world.

I Enjoyed Console Wars, How About You?

Console Wars is based on a book that one of the credited directors (Blake J. Harris) of the documentary wrote. Blake J. Harris’s Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation was published in 2014, and apparently took them 6 years to make it into a movie. It’s a good movie and it’s definitely worth the watch.

Did you enjoy the documentary as well? Tell us what you think of it. We’d love to know more about it.

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