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Revolutionaries at Sony: The Making of the Sony Playstation and the Visionaries Who Conquered the World of Video Games [Hardcover]

Reiji Asakura
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2000
"I wanted to prove that even regular company employeesno, especially reg ular company employeescould build a venture of this scale with superb technology , superb concepts, and superb colleagues."Ken Kutaragi, "The Father of the Sony PlayStation".

Here, for the first time ever, is the authorized story of Ken Kutaragi, the v ice president of Sony Computer Entertainment whose successful campaign to domina te the gaming industry with 1994's PlayStation has become the stuff of modern bu siness and technological legend.

A priceless analysis of technical, marketing, and over-all business strategie s and a riveting saga of ambition, determination, and extraordinary vision, Revo lutionaries at Sony is a rare and enthralling true-life account that reads like a work of masterful suspense fiction.


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Product Description

From Amazon

PlayStation is the hottest video-game platform going, and its $7 billion in annual sales now accounts for 23 percent of parent Sony's profits. In Revolutionaries at Sony, Reiji Asakura describes how this came about despite long odds and naysayers both within and without. Asakura gives all credit to Ken Kutaragi, a visionary executive engineer who recognized the possibilities when he first viewed Sony's revolutionary "System G" 3-D technology in 1984 and who still believes it has achieved only a fraction of its potential for launching "an entire world of computerized home entertainment." Asakura attributes much of the ongoing success to Kutaragi's reliance on more than "an engineer's point of view," noting that whenever he "came across an interesting idea, his thoughts quickly turned to how (it) could be successfully commercialized." Asakura, an economic and technology journalist based in Tokyo, is an unabashed cheerleader of the PlayStation and the people who created it, calling the product "a modern miracle" and Kutaragi "the hero of this book." But anyone curious about these incredibly popular games, which increasingly hook middle managers along with their children, should find the tale an interesting one. --Howard Rothman

From the Back Cover

With all the drama of a page-turning adventure story and full of vital, real-world insights for anyone seeking to learn more about the nature of high-tech innovation and elite success, Reiji Asakura's Revolutionaries at Sony captures as never before the secrets, conflicts, and strategies behind an astonishing business and technological triumph.

In the beginning, Ken Kutaragi's audacious plan to engineer for Sony an altogether revolutionary type of gaming console based on high-end digital video graphics fell on hard ears. Sony, he was told by company executives, was not interested in venturing into the "toy" business, a market with infamously hard-to-please consumers and haunted by the ghosts of such moribund also-rans as Atari and the Commodore 64.

But Kutaragi refused to abandon his vision. Under the auspices of the newly formed Sony Computer Entertainment division, Kutaragi headed up a dynamic team of marketers, economists, and state-of-the-art designers and digital engineers. In four short years, they not only managed a successful foray into the gaming marketaethey absolutely dominated.

In the entire history of twentieth-century business, Sony's tremendous growth performance through the 1990s is virtually unmatched. And Revolutionaries at Sony shows you exactly how and exactly why it happened, affording readers an unprecedented inside look at the groundbreaking creation and marketing of what has since become the world's top-selling game machine, the Sony PlayStation. On the heels of the U.S. release of the blockbuster Sony PlayStation 2 earlier this year, this authorized account examines Ken Kutaragi's rare combination of passion and pragmatism, detailing how he made full use of corporate resources, how he worked in vain to initially sell the concept to Nintendo, and how he ultimately kept the project alive.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Revolutionaries at Sony is the authorized case history of how Sony came to enter and become a leader in the video game business in the 1990s. Many people despair about the potential for large companies to produce entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial results from within major corporations. Even more people would despair about that occurring with fast-changing technologies in the slow-moving, consensus-driven cultures of Japanese companies. The latest look at this general subject is found in the well-done book, The Innovator's Dilemma.
This book is an important case history on the subject, because it both confirms and challenges many common beliefs about intrapreneurship (being an entrepreneur inside a company, a term coined by Gifford Pinchot).
First, Japanese companies have a reputation for being not very innovative. The Sony entry into computer games is just the opposite, an important innovation based on a well-considered bet on advanced technology and how a market could be developed. In describing this case, the potential advantages of a large company because obvious in terms of creating access to and the ability to use more types of advanced technology.
Second, the case history is especially noteworthy because the Sony team took the unusual perspective (but one that I subscribe to in The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise) that ordinary people can approach perfection routinely. And the Sony team did just that.
Third, Ken Kutaragi, the key entrepreneur in the story, shows how being a contructive rebel can pay off. Shades of skunk works at Lockheed! He clearly must be familiar with the literature that suggests that you need to get the team away from everyone else, yet access top talent.
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Format:Hardcover
Revolutionaries at Sony does a good job of detailing an insider's perspective of the rise of the Playstation. It gives a good account of how the platform came to be, and a thorough discussion of the hardware. Sony's business plans, particularly its marketing strategy is also detailed for the reader, and gives some insight into the marketing of the PS2.
Unfortunately, the story of Ken Katarugi, the "hero" of the book (p. xi), reads more like "The Life and Times of Montgomery Burns, as told by Waylon Smithers" rather than even a semi-objective attempt at accurate history. Indeed, after reading Revolutionaries at Sony, I was left wondering what is this book exactly? A history? A fan book? By its cover, it's supposed to be a business case-study book. As a case study book, I'd expect a wider range of perspectives. Who heard of a case study of a business that quotes the senior executives almost exclusively? Where are the attempts to build alternative explanations, or refute alternative hypothesis. If it is a business case study, then I'd also expect to see a more thorough description of the business environment Nintendo's business model, which Asakura seems to have missed almost completely, is scantly mentioned. Given that Sheff's excellent history of Nintendo is now several years old, this oversite is more than a little disturbing.
But, if you're looking for a good one sided (Officially sancioned) account of the rise of the PlayStation, and a few of the facts behind the Rise of the Playstation, then Revolutionaries at Sony will do.
You can read the full review at Joystick101.org
[...]
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good history, lots of Sony PR Sept. 19 2000
Format:Hardcover
This book is interesting, but it really feels like Sony-worship. It is great PR for Sony, but if you're looking for an objective view of the great videogame wars you won't find it here. What you will find is some good historical information about why Sony entered the videogame industry. The book largely centers on the Japanese side of Sony; it uses many examples which have been translated to English but discusses Japanese commercials, prices, etc, leaving me a bit confused until I realized the book had been translated from Japanese. Most of the information concerning Sony v Nintendo is accurate but presented in a "Sony can do no wrong" light which I found aggravating. The author takes every opportunity to represent Sony as revolutionizing the videogame industry, and declares Kutaragi the savior. If you read this book, just keep in mind that the author is extraordinarily biased toward Sony, and take all information presented in that light. Then you'll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book is the authorized case history of how Sony came to enter and become a leader in the video game business in the 1990s. Many people despair about the potential for companies to produce entrepreneurs and entreneurial results from within major corporations. The latest look at this subject in general is The Innovator's Dilemma.
This book is an important case history on the subject, because it both confirms and challenges many common beliefs about intrapreneurship (being an entrepreneur inside a company, a term coined by Gifford Pinchot).
First, Japanese companies have a reputation for being not very innovative. The Sony entry into computer games is just the opposite, an important innovation based on a well-considered bet on advanced technology and how a market could be developed.
Second, the case history is especially noteworthy because the Sony team took the unusual perspective (but one that I subscribe to in The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise) that ordinary people can approach perfection routinely. And the Sony team did just that.
Third, Ken Kutaragi, the key entrepreneur in the story, shows how being a contructive rebel can pay off. Shades of skunk works at Lockheed! He clearly must be familiar with the literature that suggests that you need to get the team away from everyone else, yet access top talent. He did this by the unusual approach of heading a joint venture between Sony corporate and Sony Music, a subsidiary. This allowed the venture to be both in and out of Sony, depending on what is needed. He was aggressive when Sony was wrong, and enthusistically supportive when Sony was right in its support.
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