One of the great tech and gaming stories of a generation will be told on the small screen soon. Deadline reports that Blake Harris’ 2014 non-fiction novel Console Wars will be adapted into a documentary and a short-run TV series, both of which will air on CBS All Access.
The book tells the behind-the-scenes story of the business and technological rivalry between the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) video game consoles in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The story is told largely from Sega’s perspective—specifically that of ex-Mattel CEO Tom Kalinske, who joined Sega’s American division to lead pivotal moments in the Genesis’ product lifecycle and rise to popularity.
The book is based on interviews with key players in the actual events, but it was written in a novel-like, narrative prose style. It proved popular with readers, though critics felt the author’s prose writing style sometimes detracted from the story’s impact.
Legendary Television Studios (The Expanse, Colony, Lost in Space 2018) is producing the content while CBS will distribute. The feature-length documentary will be produced by actor Seth Rogen (who also supported the book), Point Grey Productions, and Scott Rudin Productions, among others. The limited-run TV series will come from writer Mike Rosolio and be directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island, You’re the Worst).
The show is likely to be similar in theme to the ’90s limited-run Pirates of Silicon Valley—albeit hopefully, well, better—with a focus on the personal stories of executives who battled one another in a frontier industry.
At the time of the Sega Genesis’ launch, Nintendo had near total dominance of the home game console market thanks to the runaway, analyst-defying success of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The Genesis launched in close timing with NES-successor SNES, and it ran with marketing campaigns like “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t,” stoking the flames for decades of console wars to come, for better or for worse.
The book not only tracks that rivalry, but it chronicles the eventual wave-inducing entry of Sony into the market with the PlayStation. Along with Nintendo’s Nintendo 64 console, the PlayStation famously and thoroughly outplayed Sega’s Genesis successor, the Saturn, in the market.