Well, well, it's been a bit since I've churned out anything for this column, and it's well overdue. This time around, I am talking about the book "Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Home Videogames," by Leonard Herman.
What we have here is a history book on the videogame industry starting off with an overview on the history of computers and continuing through to early 1994.
I found the book very interesting, though a bit on the dry side. It leaned more towards a textbook form of writing than anything else I believe, and would be good part of the text for a school course (if one exist).
First off, some of the positive things about this book - One of the best things this book does well, is document how since the videogame crash in the mid-eighties, Atari Corporation has regularly failed to fulfill it's promises, and show how it has continuously failed to support it's products... As well, it makes it totally clear how poor management has failed to properly guide this once great company.
On top of giving great coverage to Atari's history in the industry, this book also gives us a peek into early Consumer Electronics Shows (CES), documents the many announcements gaming companies have made about peripherals, and the shows how well they followed through with those announcements.
Where this book is weak, is on the details of certain gaming events. For instance with Nintendo, I think a little more detail should have given to the "Tetris" incident. The book only makes small mention of how Atari lost the rights. Other than Mirrorsoft (also mentioned in the book) there were many more companies involved in this situation and it was a fairly interesting event in my opinion.
Another item that was only lightly touched upon is the whole SNES CD situation between Philips, Sony and Nintendo. If someone only read this book, they might come away feeling that this wasn't a big deal, and that the whole situation was just a simple disagreement between companies... When from what I've read from other sources, as well as heard from people who were close to the situation, this was no minor disagreement. The story as I've heard it, has pointed towards more of a major contract skirmish between Nintendo and Sony.
Sources indicate that the contract developed with Phillips and Nintendo was apparently a move designed to force Sony to either give in to Nintendo's requests or break the contract which they had locked Nintendo into. Sony's apparently offended that Nintendo would sign a contract with a non-Japanese firm behind their back, opted to desolve the contract and redesign their CD machine into what we now know as the PlayStation.
This book does have a lot of information in it, and I compliment the writer on his work in compiling all of his material. I would recommend Phoenix for any videogame player interested in gaming history. I can easily say that I learned a few new things from this book as I am sure most people will. But, non-gamers may find Phoenix rather dry since it does read very much like a history textbook (which is essential what it is).
One last note: With this being a vanity press publication, I would strongly note to the author that before reprinting this through a larger publisher, there should be additional material added to cover up through the deadline for printing, to make this book as timely as possible when it is released. More than anything, due to the significant events that have transpired since this first printing was done.
If you are interested in reading this Phoenix, the cover price is $19.99 (plus shipping and handling). You can write for more information to:
Phoenix P.O. Box 3814 Union, New Jersey 07083-1891http://www.rolentapress.com/