Former US Sega President and SCEA founder Bernie Stolal dies at 75

Bernie Stolall, former Sega president and founder of Sony Computer Entertainment America, has died at the age of 75.

The following is an obituary written by author and games journalist Steven L. Kent, sent to game informer Completely use:

June 22, 2022, Los Angeles, Calif. — Bernard “Bernie” Storall, a former executive at Atari, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Sega of America, has died at the age of 76.

“Bernie was a low-key guy. He controlled his ego,” recalls Vince Desey, founder of Running with Scissors. “I’ve known Bernie for a long time and I’ve never heard him raise his voice. He’s a gentleman in an industry where there really aren’t many people.”

Stolar got into the video game business after releasing an arcade game called Shark Attack in 1981. Created by Pacific Novelty and manufactured by Illinois-based pinball maker Game Plan, Shark Attack is a game where players control a white shark to eat swarms of divers.

Stolar was given the daunting task of briefing Universal Studios CEO Sid Sheinberg on the project. After the release of the 1975 film Jaws, Universal claimed some ownership of shark-themed entertainment, and Simberg was notorious for suing companies he believed were infringing on his studio’s intellectual property. (In 1982, Sheinberg took Nintendo to court, claiming that Donkey Kong infringed on his studio version of the movie, “King Kong,” without success.)

After negotiating a license to build 1,000 Shark Attack machines without paying royalties, Stolar built 990 machines and terminated the project.

Over the next decade, Stolar never stayed away from gaming. He opened a successful arcade machine called the State Street Arcade in San Francisco, then landed a job at Atari’s coin-operated game. distribute. He was still at Atari in 1984 when ousted Commodore Computers founder Jack Tramiel bought the company.

Tramiel, a Polish-born Jew who survived Nazi concentration camps, is known for his mercurial personality and ruthless business practices. He openly scoffed at any sign of weakness, circulated among executives, and alienated nearly everyone who worked for him. Despite Tramiel’s reputation as a “boss from hell,” Stolar thrived under him, becoming president of Atari from 1990 to 1993, when he decided to take a chance at Sony, a relatively lightweight company in the video game industry. .

It’s hard to imagine today that Sony Computer Entertainment looked like a vision in the early 1990s. Sony’s early efforts to publish games, often sold under the Imagesoft brand, included such forgettable titles as Cliffhanger, Bran Stoker’s Dracula, Super NES, Genesis and SegaCD, as well as the poorly-reviewed ESPN sports series. Sony’s most famous game. Before the release of the PlayStation in 1995, it was a Disney-licensed adventure game called Mickey Mania.

It was during his three-year tenure as executive vice president of business development and third-party relations at Sony Computer Entertainment America that Stellar took on a more public role. Small coin-operated game. Manufacturers and arcade owners may fly under the proverbial radar, but console makers like Nintendo, Sega, and Sony are closely watched by both the gaming press and the mainstream media.

“I met Bernie in 1995,” recalls Rob Dyer, Chief Operating Officer of Capcom USA, Inc. , while Bernie just started as third-party head of PlayStation in the U.S.”

“Bernie was bigger than life. At the time, the PlayStation was nothing, but he came in with his otherworldly attitude and he said the PlayStation was going to make a difference. He told us we needed to make games for Sony.

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

“I’ve done a lot of deals with Bernie over the years…especially when I became president of Crystal. He was my mentor.”

Stolar’s decision not to develop role-playing games for the PlayStation caused a lot of controversy. In fact, Stolar is focused on creating a launch lineup that will capture the largest possible market share from Sega and Nintendo as quickly as possible. With that in mind, Stolar may have made the right short-term decision.

Despite some notable exceptions, RPGs haven’t been particularly popular in the U.S. market. Stolar chose to focus on fighting games and other genres that have a larger following. His six-month exclusive partnership with Williams for the highly anticipated Mortal Kombat III helped Sony establish an early lead in the US console market.

Stolar’s indifference to RPGs remains controversial. Critics pointed out that Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997, proved him wrong. Although 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 itself. 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 unfairly accuse him of killing Sega’s fifth-generation console, the Sega Saturn. In fact, Saturn was misconceived from the start. Due to the popularity of the arcade port Sega’s Virtua Fighter, the Saturn was difficult to program and designed specifically to support the arcade port, thus leading the PlayStation early in Japan.

While Virtua Fighter is also popular in the U.S. and Europe, the arcade business is dwindling outside of Japan, and Western consumers aren’t nearly as excited about the game. Sega quietly launched Saturn in select stores five months early, with just a few games available for $399, further alienating retailers and customers.

When Stolar joined Sega, Sony had already knocked Saturn back and was poised to overwhelm Nintendo. Some of that success comes from initiatives that Stolar has already implemented, such as the Mortal Kombat exclusive.

When Sega discontinued the Saturn in 1998 and announced new hardware, Storall frantically launched an aggressive marketing campaign to undercut Sony’s growing hold on the US market. Under his leadership, Sega launched the new Dreamcast console, scheduled an unprecedented 18-game launch lineup, and hired Peter Moore, Reebok’s senior vice president of sports marketing.

“I’m grateful to Bernie for getting me started in this industry, which has lasted more than 20 years,” Moore said. “None of this would have happened if Bernie hadn’t believed that a certain shoemaker could master the skills of marketing sneakers and use them to market video games.

When asked how Stolar impressed him, Moore said: “He’s active, aggressive for all the right reasons, and always wants to do the right thing for his clients.”

Moore will continue to operate Xbox, EA Sports and Sega of America. In August 1999, just a month before the Dreamcast was released, Sega packaged Stolar and replaced him with Moore. With Stolar’s plans and Moore at the helm, the Sega Dreamcast, which launched in the US on September 9, 1999, was an incredible success, although the console itself was doomed from the start.

Electronic Arts, America’s most influential game publisher, refused to make games for it. Square declined in Japan. Without the two companies, EA and Square, Sega is scrambling to make games that can compete with the likes of Madden NFL and Final Fantasy. Sega couldn’t compete with the well-oiled Sony hype machine and the public’s fascination with the PlayStation brand. When Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft also introduced their new systems, the market almost forgot about the Dreamcast.

As for Stolar, he remains a gaming industry icon. He ran Mattel Interactive for three years, served as a consultant to heavyweights such as Cisco and Golden Gate Capital, and served as interim CEO of Adscape Media, a video game digital advertising space marketing company that launched in February 2006. A year after buying Adscape, Bernie became a gaming evangelist for the web giant.

“My first impression of Bernie was that he was arrogant,” recalls Eva Woo Slavitt, who worked with him at Adscape Media and continued to work with him after the company was acquired by Google. “Under this exterior, was a truly kind and caring gentleman.

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

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

“I wasn’t supposed to reach out to someone like Bernie,” Freeman recalled, “but he took my call and asked to see a business proposal.”

Sherry McKenna, chief executive of Oddworld Inhabitants, described Stolar as rude, honest and unwavering in loyalty. After McKenna first met him in the 1970s, she lost touch with Stolar until she gave up a successful career in the film industry to co-found Oddworld Inhabitants.

“Lorne (co-founder, Lorne Lanning) and I had just started working at Oddworld Inhabitants and had just moved to our new offices in Los Osos (California) when we got a message on my desk saying ‘Sony Bernie Vice President of Stolar.’”

Like Freeman, McKenna called Stolar, not expecting him to answer her call. Instead, he took her call and coached her so that she and Lanning could sign a deal with Sony Computer Entertainment America.

“When Bernie believed in you, he absolutely believed in you. No problem, he just helped you succeed.”

staff in game informer Condolences to Stolar’s family.