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You wouldn’t know it from the current state of the industry, but the biggest grudge match in video games wasn’t always PS4 versus Xbox One or Skyrim versus Dark Souls. For the bulk of console gaming’s most formative years, the bitterest rivalry was Nintendo versus Sega.

Back before Sega threw in the towel on making its own hardware, the two companies hated each other, and their fans did, too. “Nintendo makes games for little kids.” “Sega’s marketing is obnoxious and juvenile.” “The Super NES processor sucks.” “The Genesis sound chip sounds like a muffled fart.” “Mario is fat.” “Sonic only has one eyeball.”

Soon, you’ll be able to relive the epic struggle for 1990s video game supremacy with the feature film adaptation of the book “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation.”

Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, the duo behind the 2007 comedy Superbad and co-directors of last year’s This Is the End, will be writing and directing the film, which is likely to see the print version’s lengthy title truncated to just Console Wars. Considering that the book itself, from author Blake Harris, doesn’t come out until the middle of next month, we’ve probably got a lengthy wait until the movie hits screens, but let’s take a look at the historical context of its setting.

For modern gamers, the concept of a full-on console war can be a little hard to properly conceptualize. With the exception of a handful of first party properties controlled by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, most A-grade games eventually get released for multiple platforms. Often, you have to be a pretty enthusiastic enthusiast to spot the differences, not to mention a jaded fanboy to get that worked up over them.

Twenty years ago, though, things were very different. Video game console design was still an emerging field, and the high cost of components meant you couldn’t bring a system to market at a reasonable price with maxed-out specs across the board.

▼ At a reasonable price, we said!

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Hardware designers had to make choices, and prioritizing one area necessitated settling for diminished capabilities in another. As a result, consoles created by different companies ended up with completely different performance profiles. In the 16-bit era, where Sega and Nintendo’s collision was the most violently head-on, the latter’s Super NES offered vibrant color, the first sound chip in a mass market console capable of passably replicating actual instruments as opposed to spitting out bleeps and bloops, and the scaling and rotating graphics effects package known as Mode 7. On the other hand, Sega’s Genesis had a processor several orders faster than the slouch Nintendo’s console was saddled with, enabling it to more easily move a larger number of on-screen objects, though not necessarily any more quickly than those in a Nintendo game.

▼ Blast Processing was never a real thing.

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Such differing hardware also led to incongruous programming processes. The majority of software developers lacked the resources to have fully operating teams for both Nintendo’s and Sega’s consoles, and even those that did often had their hands tied by exclusivity contracts that were the order of the day in that era. Having to put all their eggs in one basket meant there were real consequences on the line for third-party software developers, as picking the losing side meant a shrunken pool of potential buyers, leading to lower profits at best and bankruptcy at worst.

Consumers faced a similar dilemma. If the system you bought didn’t sell well enough to build a large user base which could convince talented developers it was worth the time and risk to produce a game for it, your shiny new console would provide all the entertainment of a hard plastic footrest. For gamers in the early 1990s, especially those living in North America, the only two options that had a chance of panning out were Sega or Nintendo.

▼ “But you guys missed out on the best Castlevania game ever!” shout the 27 TurboGrafx-16 owners who were hardcore enough to buy the CD add-on and mail-order import Rondo of Blood at its release in 1993.

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While Sega’s 1989 release of the Genesis gave it a two-year head start on the Super NES in North America, the company immediately had a fight on its hands. Aside from the immediate recognition and respect that came with the Nintendo name, the Super NES’ audio and visual superiorities gave it an early edge in attracting young kids and their parents’ wallets. Nintendo’s hardware also was a better match for the slower-paced, atmosphere-driven role-playing games that consistently topped sales charts in Japan at the time.

Sega wasn’t going to go quietly, though, and Harris’ book promises to detail how the company not only picked itself up off the mat, but managed to at one point control more than half of the lucrative U.S. video game market. Harris gives much of the credit to Sega of America’s then-CEO Tom Kalinske’s corporate leadership. The U.K.’s The Guardian also points to the hit debut of Sega’s mascot in 1991 with the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

▼ Also known as The Game that Killed Alex Kidd’s Career

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The Guardian also writes that Sega’s surge was due to the CD add-on for the company’s 16-but console that shipped to American retailers in 1992, but considering its weak sales and almost complete lack of popular titles, we’re not sure it really helped Sega claw its way to the top.

▼ We say almost complete lack of popular titles because Lunar was awesome.

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As we recall it, while Sega did indeed get a big boost from the Sonic franchise, it got at least that much again, if not more, from its handling of the 1993 home version of ultra-gory fighting game Mortal Kombat. Whereas the Sega version had all of the blood and severed heads of the arcade original (albeit only after entering a code), on Super NES a fist to the face produced a fountain of sweat instead of hemoglobin.

▼ In all fairness though, you really do have to punch a dude incredibly hard in order to make that much sweat fly off him.

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Nintendo’s polarizing decision was applauded by overprotective parents. Unfortunately, it was ridiculed by people who actually bought and played games, who converted to Sega fans (and customers) in droves. Stung by the embarrassing and financial pain of the blunder, Nintendo would reverse its stance just a year later by allowing Mortal Kombat II to be released on the Super NES uncensored, as part of its attempted bad boy makeover “Play It Loud” marketing campaign. By then the damage was done, though, and the image had already cemented in many gamers’ minds that Nintendo was for babies and Sega was for badasses.

We’re looking forward to see which, if any, of these issues the Console Wars movie delves into, along with a host of other possibilities we haven’t touched on here. Hopefully, the movie will be a success, although if it isn’t perhaps the producers can recoup some of their losses with a cash grab direct-to-DVD sequel about the battle between the Panasonic 3DO and Atari Jaguar.

Ending spoiler: everybody loses

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Sources: Jin, The Guardian, RocketNews24
Top image: K Pop Starz
Insert images: Wikipedia, Sonic Retro, Wikipedia (2, 3), Sega 16, Akihabara Blues, A Place of Games