Game Over: Nintendo’s Battle To Dominate Video Games is our book of choice for the week ahead, frankly as it’s considered the best book ever written about video games.
It’s one of those cultural shifting texts where you don’t need to be interested in the medium to find the story riveting. Useful if you hate video games, eh?
It’s journalism at its finest from a talented writer and insightful man, but it also opens the door to a brutal business environment and some incredible happenings.
American journalist David Sheff penned this investigative tome in 1993.
Back then Nintendo and Sega were doing battle on a business front, with the SNES and Mega Drive, but this book largely focuses on Nintendo’s remarkable business ascendency during the 1980s.
Thusly we come across a company, back in ’92, which was already making more profit than any American film studio.
How did Nintendo rise from a humble manufacturer of playing cards in Nippon, to an iconic behemoth beloved by millions? This is what Sheff most compellingly reveals.
Two names stand out: Hiroshi Yamauchi and Shigeru Miyamoto. The former, with clinical efficiency, launched the company up the global ranks with shrewd decision making.
One such decision included hiring creative genius “Shigsy” Miyamoto in the late ’70s, who has since gone on to create an incredible body of work.
Despite the high quality and popularity of Nintendo’s early games, Miyamoto’s Donkey Kong inadvertently courted the attention of Universal Studios, who claimed it infringed on their King Kong rights.
Subsequently, in one of the most idiotic lawsuits in history, it transpired Universal didn’t have any rights at all.
King Kong was in the public domain (you can read about this weird incident further at Universal City Studios, Inc. v Nintendo Co. Ltd.).
Other such tales populate the book, making it a fascinating account of a business hitting the international stage.
Nintendo is a household name. Its status in the industry legendary—finding out how it achieved that is quite something.
The Battle For Tetris
The chapter which really stands out for us is Nintendo and American Henk Rogers’ remarkable negotiations with the Russian government for the Tetris rights.
It was the late ‘8os and they were up against the might (and considerable girth) of Robert Maxwell, but Rogers and Nintendo battled through to land one of the must iconic business deals in history.
But above everything, Game Over is a fascinating insight into what structured a famous company.
Sheff’s writing is clearly based on intensive research, and it reflects a gloriously productive moment in history.
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