GAME OVER by David Sheff


How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children
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 An exhaustive, gung-ho progress report on Japan's Nintendo, the transnational enterprise that bestrides the expanding market for computer/video games like a colossus. Drawing on what appears to be open-door access to corporate brass, freelance journalist Sheff (Playboy, Rolling Stone, etc.) provides a thorough rundown on the Kyoto-based company, which for much of its 103-year history had trouble surviving in the humdrum playing-card business. Credit for the family firm's dramatic breakout goes to Hiroshi Yamauchi, who first took Nintendo into electronic toys and then (as the state of the semiconductor art permitted) into ever more dazzling high-tech diversions--notably, the immensely popular Mario Bros. series of games. By Sheff's tellingly detailed account, the ultracompetitive CEO cajoled, inspired, or browbeat a small cadre of talented engineers and programmers into creating products that yielded pretax profits approximating $1.25 billion on sales exceeding $4.3 billion in fiscal-year 1992. While rivals scramble to keep pace with the industry's top gun, Nintendo could, Sheff argues, cash in on the commercial potential of its installed hardware base, now devoted solely to fun and games. At last count, roughly two-fifths and one- third, respectively, of the households in Japan and the US owned one or more of the company's playback systems. The design of these machines is such that most models could be incorporated into networks with interactive capabilities (banking, bill-paying, retrieval of information from databases, etc.) while maintaining their appeal for the youthful consumers who use them mainly for amusement. Whether Nintendo will lead the way into a brave new tuned-in, turned-on, wired-up world remains an open question in Sheff's mind, but he leaves little doubt that it has the clout and capacity to do so. A revelatory, if overlong, appraisal of the world's multimedia past, present, and future as shaped by its dominant player. (Fifteen line drawings--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-40469-4
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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