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      Gaming News

      Deepening Brand Engagement - Lessons from Video Games and Beyond

      Deepening Brand Engagement - Lessons from Video Games and Beyond

      As of 2018, there are 2.2 billion active gamers worldwide (according to the Global Games Market report). In North America, video games generated $27 billion in revenue in 2017 while the Asia-Pacific region generated $51.2 billion. Globally, smartphone gamers represent 32 percent of the market, console gamers represent 31 percent, and PC gamers represent 23 percent.

      A huge segment of the world plays video games, and the profile of a “gamer” is no longer limited to the nerd stereotype of the 80s and 90s. The growth of the industry and the diversity of playstyles and interests show that anyone can be (and probably will be) a gamer.

      For business leaders and marketers, video games can represent an opportunity to build an interactive portal into their brands. These portals can be designed to appeal to specific demographics and take a variety of forms, from a retro-styled gaming product to immerse virtual reality experience. Innovations in technology are driving much of this opportunity, but this space is mature enough that we can glean a set of best practices for how to approach, evaluate, develop, and deploy brand-based games to foster engagement with target audiences.

      Coffee Crisis features the Black Forge Coffee brand and incorporates music from active heavy metal bands. Full disclosure: The author is an employ at Mega Cat Studios, the developers of Coffee Crisis.

      Brand engagement is perhaps the most important idea in marketing, and it is one of the most misunderstood both inside and outside of the video game space.

      “Brand engagement” is used so often by marketers and business leaders that the true meaning—and application—is frequently lost. Brand engagement is not the equivalent of advertising or even the broader equivalent of what is typically described as branding—mission, logo, personality, voice, design standards, etc. And brand engagement is far deeper and more complex than Facebook likes and YouTube comments.

      Part of this problem stems from the infancy of the phrase. Brand engagement is a relatively new idea in terms of the available research, and researchers are still trying to figure out the best way to measure it.

      Most definitions of brand engagement agree that it represents a relationship between a brand and its consumers, and that relationship is driven by interactions. For us, that final word—interaction—is the critical part. When you foster engagement—stimulating action and brand participation in your customers—the brand relationship becomes more powerful and therefore more profitable.

      You should care about brand engagement because it means:

      • A powerful competitive advantage in your market that competitors cannot easily emulate
      • Deeper consumer loyalty, driving customer retention and repeat purchases
      • More passionate advocates for your brand to drive word of mouth marketing

      Most businesses and their marketing teams, however, lack an in-depth understanding of audience engagement, have no process for measuring it, and do not have the tools or framework necessary to move their audiences into deeper and deeper levels of engagement.


      When a business recognizes that engagement is important but is not sure how to leverage, grow, or apply that engagement, marketing can begin to flounder. For example, if you own and operate a major sports arena, you might have the goal of increasing engagement at your events.

      But what does that mean, exactly?

      Well, you want them to have more to do when they are physically present, and you want to make them more active participants in whatever event they are there to see. So, you deploy a stadium-wide augmented reality game that incorporates the wide range of digital displays at the venue, is geo-fenced for the stadium for exclusivity, and incorporates incentives for players to download and play the game.

      Great. Let’s say that players download and play the game at the event. How does that help the business? After all, they already bought a ticket and were at the venue, so what did that engagement do to further the goals of the organization? If the game was designed properly and the engagement was meaningful, that game could be used to:

      • Drive word of mouth by encouraging fans to share the game and the experience with their social media networks, perhaps via pictures and high-scores
      • Promote specific food and product specials through push notifications or special offers
      • Generate data on fan movement and behaviors at the venue via the app on their phone which is then used to improve the fan experience
      • Build community champions by highlighting the most active and most loyal fans at events

      If the business simply stops at the word engagement—which is an incredibly common practice in the marketing world—downloads and plays of the game might be enough to call the initiative a “success,” at least initially. Eventually, though, the conversation around the game will come back to impact. It’s awesome that people played the game, but how did that help the business?

      If you can properly frame branding best practices within a framework for increasing brand engagement, a process we call “the engagement funnel,” you can create marketing initiatives that are not only more effective for the business but also more interesting to audiences.

      To reap those rewards, you first have to understand why and how branding works.


      Before we explore what brand engagement is and how you can harness it for your business, this much should be clear: The power of a brand is often the most valuable part of a business. A company like Apple is more than the sum of its assets. The true value of the brand is in the relationships it has forged with consumers over decades of innovative product development and not in how many iPhones it has sitting in a warehouse.

      This may be a retread of things you already know, but the core ideas are worth revisiting.

      Marketing researchers began to study the importance of branding in the 60s and 70s, and you can see early applications of those ideas in some of the most legendary ad campaigns, such as Volkswagen’s off-beat ads for the VW Beatle. “And if you run out of gas, it is easy to push” is a pretty strange line of copy—even by today’s standards—but it encapsulates the brand’s personality perfectly. It’s light-hearted, it’s non-traditional, and most importantly, it differentiated Volkswagen from its competitors.

      That’s what good branding does: It resonates with a particular audience, and it sets the business apart from the rest of the landscape. When people identify with a brand on an emotional level and then have an excellent experience with the product, you begin to build loyalty that can last a lifetime.

      So, surprise, surprise, branding is now super important and one of the most brutal marketing battlefields. Get it right, and you can win big. Get it wrong, and you could become the Zune of your industry.

      If you look at the core ideas of what makes branding compelling and effective, you quickly shift from the passive to the active, where customers are interacting with the brand directly and using it to build relationships with the brand, with their friends, and with a community that might grow as a result of the brand.

      Smarter people than me have summarized how this dynamic plays out with consumers, so I’ll let Ronald and Elizabeth Goldstein from Florida State University say it in their words (from their article “Brand Personality and Engagement” published in the American Journal of Management):

      1. Consumers use brands to distinguish a company’s offering from those of other companies.
      2. This information allows them to make efficient judgments of quality, suitability, value, and can prompt quick decisions.
      3. Consumers use brands to create and display self-image and identity.
      4. Consumers can interact with the brand and even co-create it.
      5. Consumers form relationships with the brand and consequently the company that they find satisfying.
      6. Brands help consumers establish and maintain social relationships.

      Each of these points is critical to your marketing efforts, but points three through six are where brand engagement starts to steal the show.

      Have you ever met a Jeep fan? No, not someone who owns a Jeep but someone who owns and loves their Jeep. They have the custom wheel cover. They invested in a few aftermarket parts. They have a quippy Jeep bumper sticker that probably says something like “If you can read this, flip me over!” They might even go to Jeep events where they drive through mud and up big hills (or perhaps they just pretend to).

      Driving a Jeep is like driving a Harley or wearing the jersey of your favorite football club. Your purchasing decision becomes a part of who you are and drives you to join specific communities. That’s what good branding does: It transforms a consumer decision into a deeply personal expression of self.


      With interaction being at the heart of engagement, marketers can learn a great deal from video games, and those lessons are especially relevant when they are pulled from brand-based games.

      Previous successes in the brand-based video game space include Burger King selling 3.2 million units of their Xbox games, leading to a 40 percent boost in their profits for that quarter (according to BusinessWeek). In a very different market, the U.S. military developed America’s Army at a cost of only .25 percent (please not the decimal point; it’s important) of their $4 billion recruiting budget (Zeller). One of the game's creators, Mike Zyda, is quoted as saying that the game was “the most cost-effective thing that the Army has ever done in recruiting” (Quirk).

      In more recent times, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a mobile game from the reality television star, has generated $160 million in revenue and more than 45 million downloads, according to Forbes. Red Bull, the energy drink brand, has bet big on eSports and it seems to be paying off. Cumulatively, their YouTube channel on all-things eSports has generated several million views, and their dedicated Twitch channel has over 120,000 subscribers and more than 15 million views.


      The trailer for Kim Kardashian Hollywood

      These are mega successes of brand-based games, and even in the short amount of time that has elapsed since the launch of these efforts, the gaming industry has evolved and expanded to enable even more varied brand-based gaming experiences.

      Speaking broadly, a video game (or any other well-crafted brand engagement effort) can accomplish can serve as a vehicle for any of the following (independently or in combination):

      • Brand Awareness
      • Brand Engagement
      • Customer Acquisition
      • Product Promotion
      • Direct Sales
      • Event Engagement
      • Data Capture
      • Social Likes and Shares
      • Web Traffic
      • Increased Time on Site
      • Repeat Website Visitors
      • Natural Backlinks
      • Revenue

      Like any good marketing campaign, the benefits of deploying a brand-based video game are layered. Yes, the Burger King video games generated a substantial amount of revenue, but the three games (Sneak King, Pocket Bike Racer, and Big Bumpin’) also supported the significant investment Burger King made in their King-focused ad campaign. They had created a larger-than-life character to represent the personality of the brand, and the series of games featuring him as a playable character gave fans a way to engage with him directly. Yes, television commercials were entertaining, but the game meant active brand participation.

      Some gameplay from Burger King’s game Sneak King.

      When it turned out that the games were fun, collectors and gamers alike flocked to Burger King locations to buy the games. That enthusiasm, in addition to generating sales of the game, also generated a viral conversation around the Burger King brand. That level of excitement and interest is difficult to create, but because the video games were well-designed and well-integrated into the larger marketing strategy, Burger King generated several million earned impressions and made a good bit of money in the process.

      The scale of the Burger King campaign can seem prohibitive at first glance—that’s a lot of money and a lot of risks—but a brand-based game can find success with a much smaller budget and a very narrow audience.

      Boston Scientific, a medical device manufacturer, was seeing a decline in event engagement. Expos and tradeshows were a cornerstone of their sales strategy, but market shifts meant that selling this way was getting more difficult. They still saw their target audience (surgeons, primarily) attending these events, but the prospects stopping at the booth were too few. They engaged our studio to find a new and fun way to generate attention at events.

      To stand out in a sea of vendors, Boston Scientific developed a retro-styled representation of one of their tools—a device used to remove plaque in cardiovascular procedures. They loaded the game into a custom arcade cabinet, complete with buttons and joysticks, and tied the game to a leaderboard display at the booth and on the event website. The game, Plaq-man, was a hit. Surgeons stopped to play and compete, and the gameplay itself stimulated fruitful sales conversations.

      Boston Scientific used this arcade set up for event engagement, using the game Plaq-man. Full disclosure: The author is an employ at Mega Cat Studios, the developers of Plaq-man.

      In terms of scope and development costs, Plaq-man is several orders of magnitude smaller than the Burger King series, but it was the right fit for the audience and the goal. And that’s what matters.


      I mentioned before that the research side of branding is still grappling with how best to quantify engagement. The wide range of brands in any given space—all trying to compete in their unique ways—makes it difficult to distill brand engagement down to universal rules, especially as technology opens new channels for brands and consumers to connect, but it’s not impossible to form broadly applicable best practices. On this front, our intense work in interactive media has given us an advantage in learning about engagement.

      With our clients, we use an internal assessment system to evaluate brand engagement. Built on a mix of research and field experience, assigning data to each of these levels and tracking those metrics over time gives us a sense of the impact (and potential value) of our efforts. More importantly, however, these levels of engagement give us guidelines for how we craft marketing strategies and how we design products. We often see that a brand’s audience would gladly engage on a deeper level, but the brand has not given its fans the proper tools or channels to do so.

      For example, passionate fans of a product would love to meet other people like them, but the brand itself has not created a platform or a community where that is easily possible. Sometimes fans will self-organize on this front, but more frequently they will jump to a similar product with a more accessible community. But you would never know this was happening with your brand if you didn’t know to look for it.

      With levels of engagement more clearly defined, we can map a client’s marketing efforts accordingly, making it relatively easy to see if there’s a gap in the current plan.

      The levels of engagement, as we define them, are represented by the engagement funnel:

      • Consuming content
      • Making small shows of support
      • Participating in conversations
      • Championing the brand
      • Being physically present
      • Creating brand content
      • Buying products*

      For this whitepaper, we will run through a brief overview of these levels, but let’s talk about the asterisk first: Product purchases are not necessarily indicators of brand engagement.

      That sounds strange because product purchases can signify brand engagement, but the danger is in assuming that just because someone has bought from you that they are a fan of your brand. Consumers can purchase for several non-brand reasons, such as convenience, cost, or lack of education. If they insist on only ever buying your product and never the competitor’s, they are likely engaged with your brand, but if they only buy your product when it’s on sale, your brand engagement may be lacking.

      On to the other levels:

      Consuming Content—A customer regularly reads, watches, or listens to the content you create, from blogs to social media to video. This is passive, meaning that they do not take an action following the consumption of that content, but the fact that they are giving you their attention is significant. It is even more significant if that attention is given with regularity.

      Making Small Shows of Support—A like on Facebook, or the equivalent on other social media platforms, is not the most groundbreaking action a fan can take, but it is the start of a two-way relationship between the consumer and the brand. The brand shared a message, and the consumer made small responses to show that they liked what they saw. It’s small, so don’t over-interpret it, but it matters.

      Participating in Conversations—This is the stage where a consumer has entered the brand bubble and is starting to identify with the community. Frequency and intensity are good markers for how developed the engagement is, but if fans are excited about what you do and are sharing their ideas with you and with each other, you are likely on the path to a community of sorts.

      Championing the Brand—When a fan takes what they love and gladly (and proudly) shares it with their network (or their tribe, as Seth Godin would say), the level of engagement has taken a critical turn. Now your fan is not only active within the brand bubble, but she is voluntarily expanding the bubble for you. This ranges from a simple click of the share button to positive reviews to public posts about your products on social media. When fans are regularly bragging about being your customer, your brand engagement is on a healthy path.

      Being Physically Present—The idea here is that fans are excited to attend your events and gatherings. We apply this definition loosely as not every brand warrants a physical, in-person event (though you’d be surprised), so we talk about virtual gatherings like webinars and live-streams here as well. What sets this engagement apart from the other levels is that your fans are so passionate about the brand that they agree to be in a certain place at a certain time and follow through.

      Creating Brand Content—The ultimate expression of brand engagement is when fans actively take your brand and build on to it, melding their self-expression with the identity of your brand. From simple Instagram photos with your products (to be clear, unpaid) to fan art to fan-organized events, brands that inspire fans to create their brand-related content are the most powerful and most impactful form of marketing a brand can ever have, and these fans can’t be bought. You have to serve them and nurture relationships with them.

      How do you move your fans from one level to the next? That’s a book-worthy topic in itself, but I hope you can see how these various levels intertwine with the branding research we discussed previously. The deeper a fan goes into brand engagement, the more their actions begin to represent their identities and also help them to create relationships not only with the brand but with their fellow fans as well.

      A video game can serve one or most of these engagement levels simultaneously. The Burger King games (and the larger campaign built around the King) moved fans through the entire engagement funnel. Burger King fans had to buy the game to experience it (consuming content, making a small show of support, buying a product), and they had to go to a Burger King to get it (being physically present). The viral nature of the gameplay stimulated word of mouth around the game, and the collectable nature of the game mixed with its humor led to people sharing photos and YouTube videos of them playing the game (championing the brand, creating brand content).

      If you have no intention of deploying a game, that’s okay too. The standard ingredients for most marketing mixes are capable of moving fans deeper into the funnel if the execution is thoughtful and well-crafted. For example, a well-maintained Facebook page can at the same time present content to passive, barely engaged fans while also stimulating and encouraging fans to create and share their own fan-made content.

      If you do not have that framework and measurement process in place, however, your team will often end up posting simply for the sake of meeting the weekly post quota and then celebrating the number of likes the page got in the next monthly meeting.


      Though the opportunity on this front is significant, it is also not without risk. Developing an engaging, captivating brand and/or gaming experience is a challenge, and many brands have attempted to capture the momentum of gaming to achieve their marketing goals and have failed. In some cases, the games were just outright not fun to play—a shortcoming that dooms any game effort, brand-based or otherwise—but in many instances, the game concept itself was not aligned with the marketing goal.

      Before you design the game, clarify what you want the game to accomplish in terms of both of the engagement funnel and the larger business goals.

      From there, you can marry gameplay mechanics with the demographics of your audience to drive players toward that goal. The variety of gameplay options at your disposal are expansive, so here are some examples:

      Goal: Encourage your global audience to engage with each other locally to deepen brand relationships and build community.

      Game: An augmented reality game where players build and tag virtual monuments where they live and work. Players can visit and contribute to each other’s monuments, and when fans travel to a new city they can quickly see how big and engaged the fan community is by exploring the physical and virtual world simultaneously.

      Goal: Generate funds and awareness for a cause-related marketing campaign.

      Game: A retro-styled game that features simple, accessible controls and brings the cause to life with beautiful pixel art. The game is released on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch and sold to generate revenue, but the jewel of the campaign is a cartridge-based special edition—a version of the game playable on an original Super Nintendo packaged with a high-gloss manual and eye-catching box.

      Goal: Increase relevant web traffic and create a pipeline for generating additional backlinks.

      Game: A casual mobile game that uses friendly gameplay (like a tap-runner or a match-3 game) but leverages Instagram influencers (featured as characters) to drive engagement with the game and the brand. With a robust character, players can customize their avatars and join the communities led by their favorite influencers (who are built into the game as characters). These activations drive social sharing, moving social fans to website landing pages and incentivizing high-traffic influencers to link to relevant pages on the brand site.

      In practice, any of these goals could be accomplished with multiple game concepts, but what makes the most sense for the brand and the audience can help guide the design and deployment process.


      Brand engagement should be a long-term part of your core branding and marketing strategy, but here are the highlights every business owner and marketer should know:

      • Higher levels of brand engagement correlate with increases in revenue
      • Engagement is typically built on conversation, so if you are not talking as a brand through your content, your fans won’t have anything to react to
      • When you see brand engagement, you should reward it with attention, praise, and potentially free stuff
      • You can stimulate engagement through specific campaigns like contests or the promotion of superfans
      • Model the engagement you want to see by publicly highlighting the fans who are engaging with your brand
      • Monitor and nurture your community spaces to keep them welcoming and pleasant
      • Build an engagement funnel using the levels we summarized here, crafting a strategy that helps fans grow from one stage to another

      Brand-based games and other brand engagement initiatives are most effective when they are integrated into a broader brand experience. Video games are in no way a silver bullet, and though development costs for a brand-based game can be quite manageable and lightweight in some applications, even a small budget would be wasted if the game is not supported by other, more traditional brand vehicles.

      In all of the examples, we explored up until this point, the game was a thoughtful part of a whole. Just as you look to keep all of your advertising and social media messages on brand, so too should you look at a video game as being a piece of the bigger puzzle. The same holds for any piece of your brand engagement strategy, big or small.

      If you make your engagement choices deeply strategic, you are more likely to tap into the major rewards of an engagement-driven world.

      About the Author: Marshal D. Carper, Mega Cat Studios

      Marshal is a marketing author and the Director of Brand Engagement for Mega Cat Studios, a Pittsburgh-based video game development studio. From retro-inspired collectible product experiences to virtual reality, Marshal helps brands incorporate video games into their fan-engagement strategies to help them develop deeper, more meaningful fan communities.


      Ronald & Elizabeth Goldstein, “Brand Personality and Engagement” published in the American Journal of Management vol. 12, issue 1.

      Shawn Zeller, “Training Games,” Government Executive. 37.1 (January 2005): 44.

      Matthew Quirk, “Fun and Friendly Persuasion,” National Journal 38.29 (July 22, 2006): 58.


      Retro Games Are for Lovers

      Retro Games Are for Lovers

      This Valentine’s Day, Mega Cat Studios has 14% off all orders with the coupon code LUSTYMEAT. This discount code ends Friday, but there’s plenty of time to break some hearts and make some memories with 8 & 16 Bit dessert

      A curated list of examples and suggestions are below, for new games and old, to celebrate this exciting day.

      The Player's Kit

      Mayo seen above for reference only. Disclaimer: This is not representative of Mayo’s character, and is a work of fiction.


      V-Day is the most romantic day of the year. So what's a Casanova supposed to do when he has to spread that romance among a handful of Player 2s? Give your ladies the classic log jam jive, that's what.


      Whether you have a ton of Tinder pals, a score of side chicks or you're just running around with your attractive and logistically sympatico neighbor, keeping everyone satisfied is hard work. That's why the Player's Kit is here to help. With Log Jammers, you'll be able to play the same game over and over again, swapping out opponents with ease. There's no long-term commitment here: just intense bouts of guilt-free, sweaty, log-jamming action. You can also call each date by their character's name, which has several perks in and of itself: roleplaying becomes additionally exciting and you can call them by their character name if you forget their real ones.

      Kit Includes: 1 copy of Log Jammers for the NES

      Just Add:

      NES Console

      2 Controllers


      Super Matrimony



      Are the coffee stains a heart? Suggestive buttocks? Will they be removed with a magic eraser, or will the magic eraser remove the finish again? Is anyone reading this?

      Kit Includes:

      1 Justice Duel

      1 Coffee Crisis

      Just Add: 1 bottle of champagne or coffee


      Sometimes you save the princess, or the princess saved you. Sometimes there’s no princess at all, just a couple of Zombears enjoying this day together. Sometimes things get spicy and Bowser saves Toad and….. - either way, you're blessed with a real-life player 2. Take a quest together to save the galaxy in Coffee Crisis, or, test the limits with some two-player Justice Duel. Nothing says ‘til death do us part like testing the limits when the stakes are high: bet household chores with a round of button mashing, or spice up your love life with some suggestive, mech-eagle cosplaying.

      No one has to be a loser on this night!


      Pro tip: Stretch and relax your airways to get limber before any suggestive maneuvering. Bring forth children into the world 9 months from this day, and there's at least one free game in it for you.


      Bachelor/Bachelorette's Night

      Although not as good as some couch co-op fun, the right game can still make a single-player feel great.

      Kit Includes: Creepy Brawlers

      Just Add: An NES Console with no more than one controller

      Clear liquor, preferably in a plastic jug


      If shrimp flavored Ramen (splurge, and treat yourself, so bust out that Sriracha and give it some flavor) is on the menu tonight, we’ve got the perfect post-dinner activity. After all, it's your special time to celebrate the relationship that brings the most happiness to your existence.


      Punish yourself with Creepy Brawlers, because chances are you'll never get past the third fight. If you do, the plastic bottle of booze will give you the company you want and need on this lonely, exhilarating night.


      Pro Tip: I saw on Reddit last week that Pornhub sorts the "Hottest" videos by the last video a viewer opens before closing the tab. Huh.

      SweetHearts Kit

      Sweethearts that play together, stay together. There's chemistry between you both, whether it started as a lusty pun on Tinder, or you're Creepin' up on engagement. No reservations this year? No problem. Invest in something long term, something real, a symbol of your love for one another with a Mega Cat date night package. There are many, many things great about the utility of a Toga, rather than regular sweatpants and a t-shirt, but nothing gets you in the mood like having unfettered access to your date's body

      Kit Includes: Little Medusa

      Just Add: Kamasutra (I recommend Yoga Vidya's version here:

      Toga sheet (See how simple: --rQ)

      Icy Hot (Not as an adventurous lubricant, just as a means to soothe the pain you'll inevitably be dealing with tomorrow.)


      Pro Tip: Stretch your hamstrings and crack your knuckles, this isn't going to end well. Icy Hot will not, however, help with the burns to your ego after you rage quit Little Medusa.

      "Joking aside, here at Mega Cat we love the retro gaming community and all the support they've given us through the years. Whoever you are, we wish you a happy Valentine's Day


      These Trackpads were made for walking, Locomotion in Another Reigny Day

      These Trackpads were made for walking, Locomotion in Another Reigny Day

      Today I am here with a (WIP) locomotion switcher for Another Reigny Day. Let's face it a lot of VR games use the Teleportation method regarding traveling. That is neat and all but kinda lazy. Controlled movement is certainly a step in the right direction but you know what takes the cake? Letting the player choose!

      Mind you this is just a basic version but we feel like the whole concept of VR is innovation... so forcing users to have no control over how they get around is a rather archaic mindset that we are trying to avoid.

      Talking about Teleporters in Bite The Bullet

      Talking about Teleporters in Bite The Bullet

      Teleporters, a staple in most futuristic games, they are an effective (and convenient!) way to portray a transition between landscapes/levels.

      Today we are showing off the different types of teleporters currently present in Bite The Bullet.

      • There are currently 7 kinds: one each for Train Level, Hospital, Megawoods, Silo, and Base, and 2 for BioLab. There are more planned in the future for a total of (at least) 9

      Which teleporter is your favorite? What are some of your favorite alternatives to teleporting in games? (barring just hoofing it) Any questions?

      We want to hear from you! Feel free to comment below!

      Review of Blake Harris' Console Wars

      Review of Blake Harris' Console Wars

      Written by long-time gamer and gaming enthusiast Blake J. Harris, Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation is a unique read that differs from most books reviewed thus far. Its narrative style is what draws in the reader in and builds interest - even if he/she has no real understanding of the subject matter, the book establishes itself as a strong foundation for various viewpoints of analysis. The author goes at great length (600 plus pages in fact), to explore the subject matter of videogames as a competitive industry rather than the form of creativity and innovation as it is often compared to today. Yet even with the book’s limitations and somewhat one-sided view on the battle for console supremacy, Harris creates a biographical account that takes liberties with its source material without damaging the overall story.

      Opening Argument

      With that in mind, Console Wars tells the story of how Sega, an unremarkable and lackluster Japanese arcade-gaming cabinet manufacturer came out of the shadows of competitor Nintendo for videogame dominance during the first half of the 1990s. It is here that the reading becomes an analysis in the market of videogaming and all that it implies. Nintendo was holding an incredible 90% of the videogame share in Japan and the United States by mid-1990 while offering little in terms of competition for the videogame market share. Thanks to their breakthrough advertising and marketing strategies, along with Mario, a mascot that exemplified the company’s “play” state of mind, Nintendo for all anyone knew, could do no wrong and that there was no reason for anyone else to try to make money off the videogame market. However, behind the scenes, the company had a literal monopoly on the industry and held that lead with an iron fist. With strict terms and agreements for new and generally unskilled game developers as well as an alienating attitude towards the console’s retailers, Nintendo had become a force no one could stop – at least, that is the persuasive view the book wants you to think.

      Readers are given an awfully one-sided view of the console wars with Nintendo being the bad guy in most cases. While it is generally unclear as to why the dedicated side against Nintendo was made throughout the book, readers are left with the idea that the company did not want to comment on the research needed for an equal retelling. We can draw a comparison to a persuasive documentary that would normally be seen on television or in the movies; where editing and agenda-setting tactics can be used to make an argument or define the desired perspective. To that end, we are not given any sort of acknowledgements, notes, or bibliographies by the end of the book – the readers are left to their own imagination when it comes to credible references and to what caliber we are to believe what we’re reading.

      Primary Resources

      The book tells us that it utilizes an array of resource materials for its composition. The amount of specific data and scenarios tries their best to provide information to the reader about the time, place, and process of proceedings taking place between the war of Nintendo and Sega. But as stated, readers can be left scratching their heads as to the validity of events happening. To that end, there is one dominant source of reference used over and over again in this book. By this, we are given insights into the battleground thanks to the participation of the CEO of Sega of America Tom Kalinske.

      Before his aforementioned position, Tom Kalinske had already established himself as an outstanding marketer for leading brands such as the educational technologies company Leapfrog and toy manufacturer Mattel. It was his aggressive drive for the Sega Genesis console however, that established his role in the American division as a promotional leader for the company’s US sector. “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” was Kalinske’s advertising campaign that spearheaded into the heart of rival Nintendo that turned audiences and critiques’ heads towards looking at Sega. While this hostile style of marketing did not translate well into the pacifist world of Sega’s Japanese counterparts, it however reinforced the company’s desire to be number one in the videogame console market.

      Promoting an advanced graphics chipset complete with stereo sound and faster processing, the Sega Genesis drew in a more mature videogame audience. The Sega system attracted a larger and older crowd who has moved on past the child-like ambitions of the Nintendo Entertainment System and who were also tired of waiting for the next big Nintendo system. All that combined with Sonic the Hedgehog, a new mascot that represented the power and speed of the Sega Genesis, quickly rivaled and soon after stomped over Nintendo’s Mario.

      While of course, we are lead to believe these accounts are as accurate as they can be. We can’t help but wonder as to the degree of the perspective we have coming from Tom Kalinske himself via the author’s research. It’s clear that Kalinske had played an important part during this stage of the console war but we are left unsure if his role was of a commander or just a general grunt on the battlefield.

      Overused Resources

      This source, while indeed providing interesting information on the narrative, is not without its skepticism. While we were given a great deal of insight via the interviews and stories from Kalinske we can’t help but wonder at what length he was used as a resource for the book. It is obvious that the author wrote this book around the accolades and endeavors of Kalinske, yet we cannot ignore the degree of “fandom” that drips from the pages. Were this to be a story of fantasy, Kalinske would be the accomplished, but brash underdog and Nintendo the shadowy corporation of oppression and greed. But unfortunately for the readers, the story does not end happily for the hero. Instead, the underdog flies too close to the sun like Icarus of Greek myth and falls at the feet of the still alive giant that is Nintendo.

      From the way the information about the console wars was presented, readers are to assume that Tom Kalinske can do no wrong and the overall financial and manufacturing struggles of Sega of Japan did not hit the shores in America. Our views are altered towards Kalinske who, rarely makes a mistake or acts out of spite or anger. We experience this to various degrees throughout the book but more so during the beginning of Sega’s downfall. Through no apparent fault of Kalinske, and just a short three years of beating Nintendo, Sega, now on top of the console market, falls from its pedestal.

      After rejecting Kalinske’s proposals to collaborate with Sony (another Japanese electronics company), to make a new and advanced gaming system, Sega of Japan instead releases its own in-house console with dated technology – the Sega Saturn was then released to an unimpressed audience and thus the beginning of the end for Sega’s console manufacturing. In this example, the glorified Kalinske utilizes his gifted marketing tactics to try and push the stubborn Sega of Japan to a new level with rewards of future greatness. But the decision not to go with Kalinske’s plan seems oversimplified compared to his pitch with Sega. It is at this time that the book goes through a weird imbalance between telling the story of Nintendo vs. Sega and the biography of Tom Kalinkse.


      While the story does end with Mr. Kalinkse leaving Sega of America shortly before the company’s downfall we can’t help but feel relieved that that section of the book is over and passed on. However, by this time the book is near its final chapters and after the eventual fall of the Sega Dreamcast, the successor of the Sega Saturn, there is not much left of the great console war. This is ultimately a defeating end for Sega.

      Yet throughout the book we read accounts of Sega’s push to compete with Nintendo’s avalanche of videogame-console success. Looking at Nintendo by themselves, it’s amazing how the company re-invented the at-home videogame market after the great Atari videogame crash of the late 1980s. Turning a presumed fad into the all-out industry, Nintendo’s achievements cannot be ignored, especially when they are still releasing videogame consoles today. Sega, however, while no longer console manufacture has found success in publishing 3rd party developed games and will continue to collect royalties from their Sonic the Hedgehog franchise – especially since the Sega mascot can now be found on Nintendo consoles.

      Though the reading did its best to give an accurate representation of the key players involved in the console battle, it did very little to keep the two armies balanced. Can we place blame on either side of the conflict, however? On one side we have Nintendo represented as the devious corporation who we assume provided limited material for the book. And on the other end of the spectrum, we have Kalinske who provides readers with more than enough material for which to contemplate. A possible counter to counter this could have been Nintendo of America who is mentioned sparingly with little impact on the narrative.

      Still, the popularity of this book continues to rise with the author on tour across the country promoting his work. And with the ease of narrative this book provides, it was also easy to adapt its contents into a screenplay and is well underway in being made into a full-length feature film. As stated, it’s good that this book was written, even if a bit one-sided, it offers a unique perspective that up until now was non-existent. Let’s just hope that as time passes, more resources will arise as the popularity of videogame history continues.