Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are busy men. Their new North Korea comedy-thriller The Interview is in post-production. Their Sausage Party script is being turned into an actual sausage party right now. They're developing one of the most anticipated comic properties in Preacher for AMC. And if they're human, they're still coming down off the totally sweet high-five they must have shared on completion of This Is The End.
That's not stopping them from taking on new projects, though, as they've signed on to adapt Blake J. Harris' Console Wars for the big-screen with Sony Pictures and Broodin' Scott Rudin, three months before the book is even published. In fact, since Sony registered URLs around the title eighteen months ago, the project seems to be emerging as a highly-planned multimedia venture, also to include a documentary and a line of cuddly plush toys.
Console Wars the book, and presumably Console Wars the movie, is a chronicle of the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing surrounding the battle between Nintendo and Sega in the 1990s. It's based on over two hundred interviews with past employees of both companies and focuses on Tom Kalinske, then CEO of Sega of America, who brought his aggressive marketing nous over from Mattel to kick off a war with video game superpower Nintendo.
The 16-bit era was a novel time in the development of video games, where the technology was so new and expensive that the hardware platforms were actually different, with their own strengths and weaknesses. Sega's Genesis had a faster graphics chip; the Super NES had superior sound. Both had good games, often exclusives thanks to a lack of standardised hardware (as opposed to today's business-driven exclusives). It was an age when Mario and Sonic were the standard-bearers for the two big gaming platforms, and when the bloodier Genesis version of Mortal Kombat led to both high sales and Congressional hearings on marketing violent video games to children.
Now that the smoke has cleared, Nintendo seems the obvious winner - it sold more consoles and bequeathed countless iconic characters to the world, not to mention that it continued to manufacture hardware past 2001. Or perhaps the winner is the video game industry, put in the spotlight by the two companies' bickering. Either way, the path to victory was fraught with catty marketing, some embarrassing product releases and likely some behind-closed-doors backstabbing.
I don't know the full extent of the backstabbing, though, because the book ain't out yet.
Hopefully, the book and film will put into perspective the banal and irritating back-and-forth between Xbox and PlayStation in the modern age. Sega may have long since canned its hardware division, and Nintendo may be in the Nintendog box thanks to its ailing Wii U platform, but at least the platform-bashing hatred they fostered in the Nineties has managed to stick around in the gaming community. Today's gaming hardware is more homogenous than ever, but as the two big consoles have grown closer technologically, their fan bases have become all the more rabid, engaging in vicious flame wars over tiny graphical differences. Meanwhile, the games whose graphics are affected by those differences continue to stagnate, as studios continue to spend all their money on graphics instead of gameplay. What intelligent person really cares if Call of Duty runs at 720p or 1080p if it's still the same shitty whack-a-mole game with guns?
The strange thing about this particular production is that it's being spearheaded by Sony, who obviously have a horse in today's console race. The downfall of Sega and the in-progress meltdown of Nintendo, combined with the PS4's current success, all lends this project a weirdly hubristic air. Maybe the movie will end with all the relevant players putting aside their differences and playing this new thing that's just come out: the PlayStation! Everyone wins. Especially Sony.
One thing's for certain in the modern gaming world: the big companies don't have the big balls they used to. If Console Wars depicts the boardroom meeting that gave sloppy, glorious birth to the slogan "Genesis Does What Nintendon't" I'll walk out of that theatre with a grin on my face. Then again, with Rogen and Goldberg writing, I'll probably have that grin anyway.