Console Wars 2020 CBS

Console Wars (2020) Review: A Must-See Documentary for Gamers and Entrepreneurs

Nintendo and SEGA – two highly familiar names for anyone born during or before the 90s. Even in India, the craze for the game boys and the entertainment systems was totally bananas. I personally enjoyed Mario, Pacman, Sonic, and Aladdin. However, at that time, I had no idea regarding who manufactured what. Console Wars spotlights the men and women responsible behind these popular games and the trials and tribulations they faced in cementing their legs in the ever-expanding video game industry.

For a start, this is an incredibly well-directed documentary. The term documentary can be severely off-putting for many, including me, for I often get bored by the sluggish editing and a painstakingly stagnated way of telling a story. But I loved the approach of Blake J. Harris and Jonah Tulish, the directors, and the producers of the film. 

Like a video game with speedy gameplay, this documentary sprints and is devoid of any slow moment.

The storytelling is very accessible too. In underlining the Console Wars between Nintendo and SEGA, both Japanese companies that sought global domination in the gaming industry, the differentiation has been done based on their brands’ theme colors. You can easily follow the interviewee’s through the color that backlights their designation. And such a delight it is to listen to their stories.

It isn’t usual to find the zeal and participation in those interviewed. Console Wars is a tremendous exception. I have never seen so many happy faces, wholeheartedly partaking in expressing their journey’s highs and lows. And they remain remarkably generous in both appreciating and nitpicking the work of their once arch-rivals. 

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SEGA, as I know, was more popular among the youth as compared to Nintendo. The visualization and, most importantly, the pace of their games were more appealing. This documentary accurately emphasizes this fact. We learn of a few extraordinary individuals, most notably Tom Kalinske (check his fantastic profile here), Al Nilsen, Shinobu Toyoda, and Ellen Beth Van Buskirk. Each of them contributed to making SEGA what it is, or should I say the hog it became back then. 

Blake J. Harris first published this story of his in 2014, an extremely well-detailed novel of the same name. This documentary segments majority of the book in three acts, as I make of it:

  • the rise of SEGA,
  • the trailblazer that Nintendo was, and
  • the ultimate change in course, through the arrival of Sony (yes, the Play Station).

Each of the acts is riveting in their separate ways. You can take a lot of inspiration from this film through the remarkable people it spotlights. It will undoubtedly appeal to you if you belong to a marketing background or have an entrepreneurial flair. 

In describing the events of the 90s, especially the men and women who narrate their stories, there is surprisingly a lot of footage shown in the film that really helps you connect with their instances. And whenever the footage is lacking, their accounts are told amusingly through a typical 16-bit video game style.

The entire film, in fact, is patched together very well. As a gaming nerd myself, I remained delighted by the story and how the different Nintendo and SEGA games came to fruition. A fair amount of emphasis is additionally given to the drawbacks of the corporate world and the dirty politics professionals have to deal with. Its all transparently reflected and 100% resonating for the current populace.

Besides, if you come to the crux of the story, you will realize that advertising remains the ultimate tool no matter whatever industry it shall be. It is alternatively a subject of how efficiently a product can be marketed. 

As we learn through this documentary, the most creative and adept professionals were engaged in the Console Wars. Success was, hence, inevitable for both the multi-billionaire corporations as none of them were doing anything noble, per se than merely chasing their American dream. 

Console Wars is the first original film streaming on CBS – All Access. If you have the slightest of interest in the gaming business or have played any of the old-school consoles, this documentary will satisfy you to a great extent. 

Rating: 4 / 5

Have you seen Console Wars? What used to be your preference amongst Nintendo and SEGA? Comment below and let me know.

Mayank Nailwal
Passionate about films & filmmaking since 2002.
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