Former Sega Of America President And SCEA Founder, Bernie Stolar, Dies At 75

Former Sega of America president and Sony Computer Entertainment America founder Bernie Stolar has died at 75.

Below is an obituary written by Steven L. Kent, creator and gaming journalist, despatched to Game Informer to be used, in full: 

Bernard “Bernie” Stolar, a former high government at Atari, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Sega of America, handed away on the age of 75.

“Bernie was a low-key guy. He kept his ego in check,” remembers Vince Desi, founding father of Running with Scissors. “I’ve known Bernie for a long time, and I’ve never heard him raise his voice. He was a gentleman in an industry where there really aren’t many.” 

Stolar’s introduction to the online game enterprise got here with the 1981 launch of an arcade recreation referred to as Shark Attack. Created by Pacific Novelty and manufactured by Game Plan—an Illinois-based pinball producer, Shark Attack was a recreation during which gamers managed a white shark because it ate its manner by teams of skindivers. 

Stolar was given the unenviable activity of informing Universal Studios CEO Sid Sheinberg concerning the venture. After launched the film Jaws in 1975, Universal claimed a sure possession on shark-themed leisure, and Sheinberg was infamous for suing corporations he felt had infringed on his studio’s mental properties. (In 1982, Sheinberg would unsuccessfully take Nintendo to court docket claiming Donkey Kong infringed on his studio’s model of the film King Kong.)  

After negotiating for permission to fabricate 1,000 Shark Attack machines with out paying royalties, Stolar constructed 990 machines and pulled the plug on the venture. 

Over the following decade, Stolar by no means strayed removed from video games. He opened a profitable San Francisco arcade referred to as the State Street Arcade then took a job with Atari’s coin-op. division. He was nonetheless at Atari in 1984 when deposed Commodore Computers founder Jack Tramiel bought the corporate. 

Tramiel, a Polish-born Jew who survived a Nazi focus camp, was well-known for his mercurial character and ruthless enterprise practices. He brazenly derided any present of weak point, cycled by executives, and alienated virtually everyone who labored for him. Despite Tramiel’s popularity as a “boss from hell,” Stolar thrived below his management changing into the president of Atari from 1990 by 1993 when he determined to threat his profession by taking a job with a relative light-weight within the online game trade named Sony. 

Hard as it’s to think about at present, Sony Computer Entertainment regarded like a longshot within the early Nineties. Sony’s early efforts at publishing video games, usually bought below its Imagesoft label, included such forgettable video games Super NES, Genesis, and SegaCD as Cliffhanger, Bran Stoker’s Dracula, and the poorly regarded ESPN sports activities sequence. Sony’s most notable recreation. previous to the 1995 PlayStation launch, was a Disney-licensed journey referred to as Mickey Mania.

It was throughout his three-year tenure as Sony Computer Entertainment America’s government vice chairman in command of enterprise improvement and third-party relations that Stolar took on a extra public persona. Small-time coin-op. producers and arcade house owners could fly below the proverbial radar, however each the gaming press and the mainstream media stored a cautious watch eye on console producers like Nintendo, Sega, and ultimately Sony. 

“I met Bernie in 1995,” remembers Rob Dyer, chief working officer at Capcom U.S.A., Inc. “I was the vice president of international operations (at Crystal Dynamics) doing deals, selling products, and getting Crystal Dynamics products placed with distributors overseas, and Bernie had just started as the head of third-party for PlayStation here in the U.S.” 

“Bernie was bigger than life. At the time, PlayStation was nothing, however he got here in along with his larger-than-life perspective that mentioned PlayStation was going to be one thing. He instructed us that we would have liked to make video games for Sony. 

“We had failed on 3DO. We had failed on Saturn. Then we made it on PlayStation. 

“I did a ton of deals with Bernie over the years… especially when I became president of Crystal. He was a mentor of mine.” 

Loads of noise has been made about Stolar’s choice to not pursue role-playing video games for PlayStation. In reality, Stolar targeted on creating the launch lineup that might lure the most important doable market share away from Sega and Nintendo as shortly as doable. With that in thoughts, Stolar seemingly made the correct short-term choice. 

Despite a number of notable exceptions, RPGs weren’t notably large sellers within the U.S. market. Stolar elected to focus on combating video games and different genres with an even bigger following. The six-month unique he organized with Williams for the extremely anticipated Mortal Kombat III helped Sony set up an early lead within the U.S. console market. 

Stolar’s indifference towards RPGs stays controversial. Critics level to the 1997 launch of Final Fantasy VII as proof he was unsuitable. While FFVII would grow to be the best-selling recreation of 1997, Sony and Square spent a mixed $100 million advertising and marketing the sport to insure its success.  

During Stolar’s tenure at Sony, the corporate’s advertising and marketing funds was targeted on launching the PlayStation itself. At the time, Sony didn’t have $100 million to spend on one explicit recreation. 

In July, 1996, Stolar changed famed console warrior Tom Kalinske because the president and COO of Sega of America. 

Stolar’s critics have unfairly accused him of killing the Sega Saturn—Sega’s fifth technology recreation console. In reality, Saturn was ill-conceived from the beginning. Hard to program and designed to particularly to help arcade ports, Saturn took an early lead over PlayStation in Japan primarily based on the recognition of an arcade port-Sega’s Virtua Fighter.  

While Virtua Fighter was successful in U.S. and European as effectively, the arcade enterprise was dwindling outdoors Japan, and western customers weren’t almost as enthusiastic about recreation. Sega additional alienated retailers and clients alike by quietly launching Saturn in a number of choose shops 5 months forward of schedule with solely a handful of video games and a value of $399.  

By the time Stolar joined Sega, Sony had already knocked Saturn out of the way in which and was getting ready to overwhelm Nintendo. Some of that success got here from plans Stolar had put into place such because the Mortal Kombat-exclusive. 

When Sega pulled the plug on the Saturn in 1998 and introduced new {hardware}, Stolar labored feverishly to create an aggressive advertising and marketing marketing campaign that might lower into Sony’s rising grip on the U.S. market. Under his management, Sega teased its new Dreamcast recreation console, organized an unprecedented 18-game launch line up, and employed Reebok’s senior vice chairman of sports activities advertising and marketing, Peter Moore.  

“I thank Bernie for my start in this industry, a career that has lasted 20-plus years,” says Moore. “None of that might have occurred with out Bernie believing in some shoe man who might take abilities for advertising and marketing sneakers and use them to market video video games.  

Asked what impressed him about Stolar, Moore mentioned, “He was feisty, combative for all the right reasons, and wanted to do the right thing all the time for the customer.” 

Moore would go on to run Xbox, EA Sports, and Sega of America. In August, 1999, with the Dreamcast launch only one month away, Sega despatched Stolar packing and changed him with Moore. With Stolar’s plans in place and Moore on the helm, the September ninth, 1999 U.S. launch of the Sega Dreamcast’s was an unimaginable success despite the fact that the console itself was doomed from its inception.  

Electronic Arts, essentially the most influential recreation writer within the United (*75*) refused to make video games for it. Square refused in Japan. Without the 2 EA and Square, Sega scrambled to create video games that would compete with the likes of Madden NFL and Final Fantasy. Sega couldn’t compete with well-oiled Sony’s hype machine and the general public’s fascination with the PlayStation model. By the time Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft had launched their new techniques as effectively, the market all however forgot about Dreamcast. 

As for Stolar, he remained a recreation trade icon. He ran Mattel Interactive for 3 years, labored as an advisor for such heavy hitters as Cisco and Golden Gate Capital, and was the interim CEO of an organization that marketed digital promoting house in video video games referred to as Adscape Media which launched in February 2006. When Google bought Adscape one 12 months later, Bernie turned the web large’s video games evangelist. 

“My first impressions of Bernie were that he was arrogant and rude,” remembers Eva Woo Slavitt, who labored with him at Adscape Media and continued working with him after the corporate was bought by Google. “Underneath that exterior persona was a genuinely variety and caring gentleman. 

“Bernie was a relationship builder, and I cherish the time that we worked together.” 

Stolar remained lively in video games proper as much as his dying. In 2014, he was named the manager chairman of Zoom Platforms and have become a private mentor for Jordan Freeman, the corporate’s younger founder. 

“I shouldn’t have been able to reach a person like Bernie,” remembers Freeman, “but he took my call and asked to look at a business proposal.” 

Sherry McKenna, the CEO of Oddworld Inhabitants, describes Stolar as gruff, trustworthy, and unfalteringly loyal. Having first met him within the Nineteen Seventies, McKenna had misplaced contact with Stolar till she left a profitable profession within the film enterprise to co-found Oddworld Inhabitants.

“Lorne (co-founder, Lorne Lanning) and I were just starting out at Oddworld Inhabitants and had just moved to new offices in Los Osos (California) when I get this message across my desk that says ‘Vice President of Sony Bernie Stolar.’” 

Like Freeman, McKenna phoned Stolar not anticipating him to take her name. Instead, he took her name and mentored her, enabling her and Lanning to signal a take care of Sony Computer Entertainment America. 

“When Bernie believed in you, he absolutely believed in you. There weren’t any questions, he just helped you succeed.”

The employees at Game Informer extends their condolences to Stolar’s household.  

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