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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

September 19, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

GAME OVER: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children by David Sheff (Random House: $25; 445 pp.). According to free-lance journalist David Sheff, a 1990 survey found that more children in the U.S. recognized Super Mario, the Nintendo computer-game character, than they did Mickey Mouse. Nintendo's rise to such heights makes an interesting story, and Sheff tells it well, obviously having had extremely good access to the executives who run the company's North American division. For all that, though, "Game Over" is not noticeably biased in Nintendo's favor; while Sheff clearly admires the enthusiasm and tenacity of Nintendo's founders, particularly Minoru Arakawa and Howard Lincoln of its U.S. arm, he also covers in detail the company's questionable business practices, which include intimidation of retailers and the deliberate undersupply of products. The book is too long, but flags only rarely, mainly because we seldom get such a good look inside a virtual monopoly. Sheff also disabuses any readers of the notion that Nintendo, being almost exclusively a maker of games, is not a company to be reckoned with. Not only did it make an after-tax profit of more than $500 million last year, putting just about every other company--including such giants as Toyota and Microsoft--in the shade, but the Nintendo Entertainment System can easily be transformed into a full-service, network-compatible computer. No wonder that Apple Computer's president said in 1991 that the computer company he most feared in the 1990s was Nintendo.

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