The mother of all entertainment industry battles: Sega vs. Nintendo

VALENCIA. The story is known. In the 80s they could be very naive and wear shoulder pads, but they knew that in the future everything would be computers. Many children started going to computer classes and Spectrum was sold at the tip of the bucket. This was the people’s computer, with its limited color palette, but a wide range of games that were also very easy to copy, you only had to have a double deck radio cassette player.

Then a middle class was formed that had an Amstrad, more colors, better sound, although the games were not necessarily better. Commodores and MSX completed the offer until the cucumbers arrived. Ataris and Amigas were the most coveted pieces, only owned by a privileged few, but they played in stratospheric conditions. Because that’s what kids did. Their parents thought that with computers they would calculate inventions and become millionaires, but what the club did the most was play and play. It was not surprising, therefore, that with the next generation everyone took off their mask and what conquered the market were consoles. They had also been sold before, but there came a time when every kid had one and had only one purpose: to have fun. The crisis in the West picked up cruising speed at that time.

In the United States, a hedonistic country where they exist, the console had already established itself in the market since the 70s. However, 95% of that cake was eaten by Nintendo. This is how the documentary begins Console wars of Evan Goldberg Y Seth Rogen based on the best seller of the same name by Blake J. Harris. Featuring home videos of kids at Christmas opening presents and screaming like fans of Backstreet Boys when they see that inside there is a Nintendo. It was the best of the best, until Sega came along in the late eighties.

This company had to start from scratch in San Francisco. Magazine Nintendo Power by then it had a million and a half readers. Theirs was a total domination of the market and in those conditions they had to face the Sega Genesis (here known as Mega Drive), which did not reach the million sales expected at its launch. Everything changed with the arrival of Tom Kalinske from Mattel, where he had relaunched Barbie, the Hot and Wheels range of toys, and the sacred Masters of the Universe. He was considered the “miracle worker”.

They put new 16-bit technology at his service and the revolutionary idea he had was to raise the bar for video games. Nintendo was addressing a very young audience and he brought Sega products to teenagers. However, a game like Altered Beast, the one that came as a gift with the console, could not compete with MarioHe said, because it wasn’t very good to begin with, despite its graphics, and half of the United States seemed to him to be satanic in nature. Thus arose Sonic. A hedgehog, like Espinete and they presented it to all the commercial centers of the country, the old cathedrals. When they got five feet of shelves at Walmart, which defied possible punitive measures from Nintendo, they felt like they had brought down a dictatorship. Commercially, it was like that, but they had earned it. Others, like Atari, had crashed when launching the video game of E.T., whose unsold copies they had to bury in the New Mexico desert.

The strong point of their advertising, with rock music as the soundtrack, was that you became a cool guy in a leather jacket with the “next level” of video games. While Nintendo maintained a Disney line for good kids, Sega was on the market as the solution for you not to be the fool of the class. If they laughed at you at school, you bought a Sega and the next day you could grab the bully who was pounding you in class by the ear. For the launch of Sonic 2, in fact, they hired Dustin Diammond. Era 1992.

The advertising campaigns were taken in warlike terms. According to the protagonists, Nintendo was the Soviet Union and Sega the anti-establishment that threw Molotov cocktails, in their own words. As always, both in real life and in politics, it was expensive for Nintendo to underestimate its rivals, because in a matter of months they lost the halo of sanctity that in the society of the 90s meant to be cool. A tragedy if we address underage audiences, a segment that now reaches well into their fifties. A short time later, Nintento did the same. He hired groups like Butthole Surfers for the soundtrack of his games and he also promoted that console image for the peña molona.

However, everything changed with the departure of Mortal Kombat, which made the government intervene. Nintendo had resisted gory video games, but they were on the rise. Congress took up the issue, as it had happened ten years ago with heavy metal and rap, and with the pretext that they could cause “emotional damage” to minors, a process was started, as Anglo-Saxon societies like to do. in general and Protestants in particular. That opened up several debates, as if kids who became addicted to video games would neglect their studies. Something that is obvious in a way, but one of the representatives of Sega says in this regard that gamers developed their imagination more.

In the end, what brought Sega down was not joining Sony, as they had long ago plotted. It seems that it was a decision that brought down Sega Japan out of jealousy of the way its American counterparts work and left the way for the appearance of the Play Station, the best-selling console of all time. There the documentary concludes without contributing much more than the Wikipedia pages. It would have been interesting to take further the moral dilemmas of violence in video games or the consequences of their addiction, good or bad. Also, perhaps, the changes that they brought about in the leisure of children and adolescents, who are now adults and continue to play, and the reason for the context of the games, how all those ideas arose. This is, then, a documentary that may interest anyone who knows absolutely nothing about it, but who has some idea will leave it as if it were an informative piece of Matías Prats Jr.

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