Bernie Stolar, former president of Sega of America, has passed away at the age of 75.
While Stolar is easily associated with being the head of Sega USA, he’s best known as the “father of the Sega Dreamcast”. It was Stolar’s advice that convinced Sega Japan (the corporate entity for Sega) to move on from the Sega Saturn which, while being a decently solid system, was essentially dead on arrival due to Sega’s mishandling of marketing for the competitor for the original PlayStation.
Stolar started in the business by founding a coin-op company in 1980 but soon after moved on to Atari. At Atari, Stolar worked on various projects including the arcade games, and Atari’s home consoles, and was the lead for the development of the Atari Lynx.
Stolar also had a tenure at Sony where he helped found the American division of the PlayStation brand, serving as the company’s first executive vice president. Stolar would be instrumental in bringing in some of PlayStation’s most beloved franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Ridge Racer, and Spyro The Dragon.
“I loved working for Sony,” Stolar was quoted saying in an interview. “I really did. But when the opportunity came up to go to Sega and help rebuild the business and come up with new hardware, I was very interested in doing it. I wouldn’t have left Sony if I hadn’t also lived in fear of getting fired along with everyone else, though.”
After seeing the launch of PlayStation, Stolar then moved to Sega. While at Sega, Stolar helped lead the development and launch of the Dreamcast. Stolar is also credited with Sega’s move in buying the small studio Visual Concepts which would go on to become 2K Sports, best known for the NBA 2K series.
Prior to the console’s launch in North America, Stolar was let go from Sega and received a $5Million dollar severance package. While the Dreamcast did well in the U.S., globally it lost out to the PlayStation 2.
“I took the Sega position based on conversations with Hayao Nakayama, who was then chairman of the company,” Stolar said in a 2015 interview.
“We’d institute and bring in a new hardware system that would do online multiplayer games. That became Dreamcast. I headed that up.
“Unfortunately, Nakayama got pushed out of the company by Mr. Okawa at the end of 1999, and when he got pushed out, I got into an argument with Japan as well. I was pushed out as well.”
Stolar would move on to other ventures in the gaming industry including working with Mattel (where he pushed the company to double down on the production of Barbie video games) and later Google where Stolar would try to champion the idea of a streaming game service, something the company waved off at the time and then… well, you know how that story goes.
Source: Venture Beat
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