Former Sega Of America President and SCEA Founder, Bernie Stolar, Dies at 75

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

Below is an obituary written by Steven L. Kent, author and game journalist, addressed to Game informant To use, full:

Bernard “Bernie” Stolar, former top executive of Atari, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Sega of America, has died at the age of 75.

“Bernie is a quiet guy. He was always in control of his ego,” recalls Vince Desi, founder of Running with Scissors. “I’ve known Bernie for a long time and never heard him raise his voice. He’s a gentleman in an industry where there really aren’t many. ”

Stolar’s introduction to the video game business came with the 1981 release of an arcade game called Shark Attack. Created by Pacific Novelty and produced by Game Plan — an Illinois-based pinball maker, Shark Attack is a game in which the player controls a great white shark as it feeds through groups of skateboarders. .

Stolar was given the impossible task of informing Universal Studios CEO Sid Sheinberg about the project. Following the release of the Jaws movie in 1975, Universal claimed certain ownership rights to shark-themed entertainment, and Sheinberg is known for suing companies that he alleges had infringed on its assets. the intellectual property of its studio. (In 1982, Sheinberg unsuccessfully sued Nintendo, claiming that Donkey Kong had infringed his studio’s version of King Kong.)

After negotiating for permission to produce 1,000 Shark Attack machines without paying royalties, Stolar built 990 machines and pulled the plug on the project.

Over the next decade, Stolar never left the games. He opened a successful video game in San Francisco called State Street Arcade then took a job with Atari’s coin-op. assignment. He remained at Atari in 1984 when Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore Computers, acquired the company.

Tramiel, a Polish-Jewish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, is known for his shrewd personality and ruthless business approach. He openly decries any display of weakness, misleads executives, and alienates most people who work for him. Despite Tramiel’s reputation as the “boss from hell”, Stolar flourished under his leadership becoming president of Atari from 1990 to 1993 when he decided to risk his career by how to get a relatively light job in the video game industry called Sony.

Hard to imagine today, Sony Computer Entertainment looks like a long-running turn in the early 1990s. Sony’s early attempts at publishing games, often sold under the Imagesoft label, included games. forgettables like the Super NES, Genesis and SegaCD like Cliffhanger, Bran Stoker’s Dracula, and underrated ESPN sports series. Sony’s most notable game. prior to the PlayStation’s 1995 launch, was a Disney-licensed adventure called Mickey Mania.

It was during his three-year tenure as executive vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment America in charge of business development and third-party relations that Stolar became a more public figure. Small time coin. Video game console manufacturers and owners may fly under the proverbial radar, but both the gaming press and mainstream media keep a close eye on console makers like Nintendo, Sega, and Nintendo. Finally, Sony.

Rob Dyer, CEO at Capcom USA, Inc., recalls “I met Bernie in 1995. and Bernie was just getting started as head of third party for PlayStation in the US.”

“Bernie is bigger than life. At the time, PlayStation was nothing, but he came up with his larger-than-life attitude that PlayStation was going to be something. He told us we needed to produce games for Sony.

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

“I did a lot of dealings with Bernie over the years…especially when I became the president of Crystal. He is my mentor. ”

A lot of noise has been made about Stolar’s decision not to pursue RPGs for the PlayStation. In fact, Stolar is focused on creating a launch lineup that can get the biggest market share possible away from Sega and Nintendo as quickly as possible. With that in mind, Stolar may have made the right decision in the short term.

Despite a few notable exceptions, RPGs aren’t particularly big sellers in the US market. Stolar was elected to focus on fighting games and other genres with a larger following. The six months of exclusivity he arranged with Williams for the much-anticipated Mortal Kombat III helped soon Sony establish a leadership position in the US console market.

Stolar’s indifference to RPGs remains controversial. Critics pointed to Final Fantasy VII’s 1997 release as proof that he was wrong. While FFVII became the best-selling game of 1997, Sony and Square spent a combined $100 million marketing the game to ensure its success.

During Stolar’s tenure at Sony, the company’s marketing budget was focused on launching the PlayStation. At the time, Sony didn’t have $100 million to spend on a particular game.

In July 1996, Stolar replaced famed console warrior Tom Kalinske as president and COO of Sega of America.

Stolar’s critics unjustly accused him of killing the Sega Saturn — Sega’s fifth-generation console. In fact, Saturn wasn’t formed in the first place. Difficult to program and specifically designed to support arcade ports, Saturn soon led the PlayStation in Japan based on the popularity of Sega’s arcade-Virtua Fighter port.

While Virtua Fighter was also successful in the US and Europe, the video game business is waning outside of Japan and Western consumers are not nearly as enthusiastic about the game. Sega further alienated retailers and customers by quietly launching the Saturn in select stores five months ahead of time with only a handful of games and a $399 price tag.

By the time Stolar joined Sega, Sony had already beaten Saturn and was about to overwhelm Nintendo. Some of that success comes from the plans Stolar has come up with, such as the exclusive Mortal Kombat.

When Sega pulled the plug on the Saturn in 1998 and announced new hardware, Stolar worked tirelessly to create an aggressive marketing campaign to cut Sony’s growing hold on the US market. Under his leadership, Sega introduced its new Dreamcast game console, curated an unprecedented 18-game launch lineup and hired Reebok’s senior vice president of sports marketing, Peter Peter. Moore.

“I thank Bernie for my start in this industry, a career that has spanned more than 20 years,” Moore said. “It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Bernie believing in some shoe shine guy who could take his sneakers marketing skills and use them to market video games.

When asked what impressed him about Stolar, Moore said, “He was passionate, belligerent for all the right reasons and always wanted to do the right thing for his clients.”

Moore will continue to run Xbox, EA Sports and Sega in the US. In August 1999, with the Dreamcast launching just a month away, Sega sent Stolar the package and replaced him with Moore. With Stolar and Moore’s plans at the forefront, the launch of the Sega Dreamcast in the United States on September 9, 1999 was a stunning success even though the console itself was doomed from the start. establish.

Electronic Arts, the most influential game publisher in the United States, refused to produce games for it. Square declined in Japan. Without EA and Square, Sega tries to make games that can compete with games like Madden NFL and Final Fantasy. Sega couldn’t compete with Sony’s hype machine and the public’s fascination with the PlayStation brand. By the time Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft were also launching their new systems, the market had forgotten about the Dreamcast.

As for Stolar, he remains an icon of the gaming industry. He ran Mattel Interactive for three years, served as a consultant to major companies like Cisco and Golden Gate Capital, and served as Interim CEO of a company that markets the digital advertising space in video games. A game called Adscape Media launched in February 2006. When Google bought Adscape a year later, Bernie became the network giant’s game evangelist.

“My first impression of Bernie was that he was arrogant and rude,” recalls Eva Woo Slavitt, who worked with him at Adscape Media and continued to work with him after the company was bought by Google. again. “Underneath that exterior is a really kind and caring gentleman.

“Bernie is a relationship builder, and I cherish the time we spent together.”

Stolar remained active in the games until his death. In 2014, he was appointed executive chairman of Zoom Platforms and became a personal advisor to Jordan Freeman, the company’s young founder.

“I could not have approached someone like Bernie, but he took my call and asked to consider a business proposal,” Freeman recalls.

Sherry McKenna, CEO of Oddworld Inhabitants, describes Stolar as gruff, honest and disloyal. First meeting him in the 1970s, McKenna had lost touch with Stolar until she left her successful film business to co-found Oddworld Inhabitants.

“Lorne (co-founder, Lorne Lanning) and I had just started at Oddworld Inhabitants and had just moved into our new office in Los Osos (California) when I got this message on my desk that said ‘ Sony Vice President Bernie Stolar. ‘”

Like Freeman, McKenna called Stolar without expecting him to take her call. Instead, he called her and mentored her, helping her and Lanning sign with Sony Computer Entertainment America.

“When Bernie believed in you, he believed in you completely. Without any questions, he just helps you succeed. “

The staff at Game informant Deepest condolences to the Stolar family.

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