Born in the 1940s, Bernie Stolar first took advantage of the arcade game boom to found a development company called Pacific Novelty Manufacturing in 1980, which enabled him to be recruited by Atari in the process. Here, Bernie Stolar is transferred from the arcade to consoles and participates in the design of Lynx, Atari’s portable console released in 1989.
However, it was a few years later that the name Bernie Stolar became known to the players of the time. And with good reason, the man was one of the founders of Sony Computer Entertainment America, of which he was vice president at the time of the launch of PlayStation. Many emblematic games such as Ridge Racer, Battle Arena Toshinden, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon or even Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey were signed under his leadership. Bernie Stolar targeted 3D games that could showcase PlayStation’s capabilities, omitting RPG enthusiasts who at the time were most often in 2D and did not achieve strong commercial performance outside of Japan at the time.
As he explained in an interview with GamesBeat journalist Dean Takahashi, the story between Bernie Stolar and PlayStation could have lasted much longer. However, the Japanese leadership of Sony had triggered a restructuring led by Shigeo Maruyama (Chairman of the Board), and Bernie Stolar saw his comrades fall one after the other, beginning with Steve Race, the very first president of Sony Computer Entertainment America. remembered for his intervention as short as effective at E3 1995. Bernie Stolar then decides to jump into the camp opposite for fear of being thrown out as well.
“I loved working for Sony. I absolutely loved it. I would not have left Sony if I had not also lived in fear of being fired along with everyone else. What happened then was that I got worried. Everyone was getting fired. I felt like the last survivor. I was offered the title of President of Sega of America after the departure of Tom Kalinske“, he says.
He then decided to join the company that he himself had helped to weaken, Sega, and therefore saw Saturn sink from within before participating in the last resort operation, which was Dreamcast. If the public might remember Peter Moore best, it was Bernie Stolar who was president of Sega of America during the launch of Dreamcast. In this position, he is especially recognized for having acquired the Visual Concepts studio and created the 2K Sports brand, which will make Take-Two Interactive happy a few years later. Although largely beaten by PlayStation 2, Dreamcast will have made an honorable run in the US, leaving many more memories for US players than Saturn.
When I arrived at Sega, I immediately said: We have to kill Saturn. We need to stop Saturn and start building the next generation. That’s what I did. I cleaned up and picked up a new team of people. There were about 300 employees and I reduced the company to 90 employees to start rebuilding it.
At Sega, Bernie Stolar reiterated the brilliance Sony had achieved a few years earlier in terms of pricing policy when he announced in 1999 to pay tribute that the Dreamcast would be sold for just $ 199. And this while the management of Sega Japan had insisted that the machine should be sold for 249 dollars. Recruited by Hayao Nakayama, Bernie Stolar was asked to leave Sega in December 1999 when his mentor was pushed out by Isao Okawa, chairman of Sega’s board. Replaced by Peter Moore, who he himself had recruited from Reebok, Bernie Stolar then joined Mattel, just months after the release of Dreamcast.
Bernie Stolar stays with Barbie until the end of 2005, before joining the advertising agency Adscape, which will be sold to Google for a sum of 23 million dollars. Once an employee of Google, Bernie Stolar then tried to convince the web giant to get into video games, but the end of his career would consist of a number of start-ups. He died at his home in California in June 2022 at the age of 75. “He was one of the most outspoken and honest – and memorable – leaders I have met in the gaming industry.Veteran journalist Dean Takahashi testified.
- Also read | The History of the Dreamcast by Oscar Lemaire