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Secrets of Video Game Consoles (Hardback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Gaming

By Michael Hart
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 264
Illustrations: 350 colour
ISBN: 9781399070898
Published: 7th October 2022

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Did you know the Nintendo Wii had a medical condition named after it? Or that the Sega Saturn almost had the Nintendo 64's graphics chip? Did you realise the Atari Jaguar contained five different processors? Are you aware that a fake website about beekeeping was used to promote an Xbox game? Learn about all of this and more in this unique trivia book about the history of video game consoles that gives you the complete stories in detail!

These facts cover a wide range of subjects, such as which console introduced certain technology and features, esoteric hardware oddities, marketing fails and successes, stories behind key games, how certain indispensable people shaped the whole industry, development history, court cases, peculiar events, weird relationships between companies and technical explanations. Plenty of these would be obscure facts that you may not know, but even if you are familiar with them, do you know the full story? 31 video game consoles stretching from 1972 to 2017 are covered, containing more than 235 in-depth facts, numerous other pieces of trivia and over 350 images to create a single package unlike any other that gamers of all ages will find interesting!

If you want to fill your head with plenty of knowledge about your favourite video game consoles to amaze your friends with, then this is for you!

Author interview on Still Loading Podcast.

Listen to the episode here!

Still Loading Podcast, Episode 266

Author interview on Codex: History of Video Games podcast.

Listen here!

Codex: History of Video Games

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My other half is gamer mad, me not so much ( I love Nights on Sega ) and a few of the old arcade-games but have heard so much about the systemsa d consoles through the last 31 years together ai decided to give this books a go….and really loved it, interesting, detailed and well researched….if I found it a worthy read then gamers will LOVE it

NetGalley, Mark Fearn

As a long-time gamer (since my mum won a zx spectrum back in the 80s) and a computer science teacher I was really keen to reed this book. I’m interested in the history and development of gaming, both professionally and personally so this book is vey much in my wheelhouse. I found this book a really interesting read, full of lots of trivia and facts on decades worth of consoles. I have shared some of them with my students (I’m always looking for ways to engage them). This book has been a fascinating and worthwhile read.

NetGalley, Emma Fletcher

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow, what an amazing and interesting book all about the different video games consoles that have existed throughout the years. As someone’s who’s been an avid gamer since the early 90s with my first console the Sega Mega Drive, I’ve always been fascinated by the consoles that have come in the past, as well as those I have since owned and so when I saw this book appear on NetGalley I just knew I had to read it to find out more, and it really is a brilliant and interesting read!

Beginning with the first console, the Magnavox Odyssey, all the way through to the Nintendo Switch (not all of the latest consoles were out at the time of writing this book), this book goes into some interesting details about the different various consoles that have existed, along with some interesting facts about each in turn. Every chapter contains an introduction to the console along with some photos of it, followed by some interesting facts, many of which I’ve never heard before, with details about the consoles including a lot of information on how innovative each new console was at the time of its release.

Each chapter is really interesting to read. I didn’t know about the consoles that went as far back into the 1970s like the Magnavox Odyssey which was first released in 1972 (73/4 in Europe and Japan). Every chapter includes some details about the console, how different it was and how well it sold, including details on the different controllers created, how the systems came to be and even some interesting information on the many problems each console had. The different facts are separated making it easier to read about each different aspect of the console and making for some interesting reading. I found myself fascinated by how innovative so many of the consoles have been, and how successful, or not, they have been due to different issues which either helped or hindered the console throughout its life.

Each chapter is filled with a lot of information and although a few facts here and there I had heard of, especially the details surrounding the consoles that have existed in my lifetime and the ones I personally own, there are still many more details I didn’t know and I found myself unable to stop turning the pages, reading more and more interesting facts about so many different consoles. The book does detail almost all the home consoles, but doesn’t go into the details of any of the handhelds, even though there is occasional mention of some handhelds when related to the home consoles. I found this a shame as many of the handheld devices are related to the consoles in many ways, and although there is a lot of good information in this book, I think it could have afforded a few extra chapters including such iconic handhelds like the various game boys, Nintendo DSs, Game Gear, etc.

Each chapter is filled with facts and some interesting images too. There are pictures of the consoles, controllers and sometimes some packaging too. Images of some advertising, pictures of manual covers and lots of images of various videogames which have appeared on the consoles too. In general this book was fun and quite a good and easy read. I did feel like I wanted a little more on some consoles, particularly some Sega consoles didn’t mention some of the detail I have heard of about the sound in them as well as the connectivity between some consoles being given less information than I’ve heard of (again because I wanted more about the handheld consoles). But in general it was really fascinating to find out some interesting facts like how some earlier Sega consoles are still being made to this day (in one particular South American country), how some names of games came to be, how some companies have been very aggressive over the years – I had no idea Microsoft literally tried to buy out nearly all their competition when they started, and there is even a lovely little fact at the end of the Switch console chapter which makes for a lovely ending to the whole book, though there is no actual concluding chapter.

Overall this is a really brilliant and interesting book, charting the successes and failures of the many consoles that have existed over the last five decades. There are some really interesting facts, many of which I’ve never heard of and even those that I have went into more details that I didn’t know. It’s interesting to read about how the consoles worked themselves, there is actual information about the chips, processors and explanations of why some consoles were so much easier to work with for programmers than others, which might seem technical, but as someone who doesn’t know that much about the inside of a console it was easy for me to understand. And while this book won’t fascinate everyone, anyone with an interest in gaming will probably love reading this! It’s definitely made me interested in the consoles I haven’t owned in the last three decades and also made me more proud of the ones I do own for being such innovative machines!

NetGalley, Cat Strawberry

This was right up my 11 year old's alley. He's a huge fan of the story behind the the story and, of course, video games. We read this together and it was hugely enjoyable.

I could see this being a big hit with other nerdy middle grade kids, or truly anyone with a love of gaming and history.

NetGalley, Crystal Dillard

This was an incredibly fascinating read for me. As someone born in the nineties, I was completely unaware of many of the consoles mentioned in the initial chapters here, such as the Magnavox Odyssey or the Fairchild Channel F from the seventies. I really liked how Hart included information on the different “firsts” in console history (like how the Fairchild Channel F was the first home console with a microprocessor, or how the Intellivision “is recognized as having the first ever online service for a game console” in 1981!!!). There was a lot of background information on the video game industry I hadn’t known much about, such as Sony collaborating with Nintendo on sound chips and the attempt at a CD collaboration. It was really interesting to see how certain decisions negatively affected a company or the industry in general. Nintendo’s usage of cartridges resulted in less interest from developers due to the cost and less amount of space, for example. And the Sega Saturn launch was another poor management decision. I wonder where some of these products and/or companies would be today if management had been more competent.

NetGalley, H W

I really recommend this book to all fans of video games, the story behind is really interesting and really gives us insight why some changes happened the way they did.

NetGalley, Marta Ribeiro

About Michael Hart

Born in Sydney where he has lived most of his life, Michael is a child of the 1980s and started playing video games at a young age on his first console, the Intellivision. From there he continued his love for games and has been a professional in the video game and home entertainment industry since 2003. He has worked on titles such as L.A. Noire, World of Tanks and Death Squared, has webmastered gaming websites in the past and has his own gaming-related YouTube channel.

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