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Video game legends Bernie StolarThe former president of Sega of America, has died at the age of 75, friends said.
Stolar became famous. I met him when he was president and CEO of Sega America, where he helped lead the development and launch of the Sega Dreamcast. He’s one of the most outspoken and honest – as well as memorable – executives I’ve met in the gaming industry.
Prior to that, Stolar was the first executive vice president and founding member of Sony Computer Entertainment America. He helped arrange the original games for the launch of the original PlayStation. At Sony, he signed game franchises including Crash Bandicoot, Ridge Racer, Oddworld Inhabitants, Spyro The Dragon and Battle Arena Toshinden. But he got away with that job.
“I enjoyed working for Sony,” Stolar told me in an interview. “I really did. But when the opportunity came to Sega and help rebuild the business and create new hardware, I was excited to do so. However, I wouldn’t have left Sony if I hadn’t had to live in fear of being fired along with everyone else. “
I talked to him about it in 2015.
“The year 1994 was when I did it, yes. Unfortunately, Steve (Race) was fired by Jeff Sagansky, who was running Sony Computer Entertainment America after the others were fired. That changed the entire corporate complex because Mr. Maruyama, who served as PlayStation’s chief board member in Japan, came to restructure the entire company. All the others were there doing rental work. “
He added, “What happened after that was, I was very nervous. Everyone was fired. I feel like I’m the last man standing. I received a job offer to become the president of Sega of America after Tom Kalinske left.”
Through the American Sega, Stolar wasted no time.
“When I got to Sega, I immediately said, ‘We have to kill Saturn. We must stop Saturn and start building new technology. ‘ That’s what I did. I brought a group of new people in and cleaned the house. There were 300 odd employees and I downgraded the company to 90 employees to start rebuilding,” Stolar said.
Stolar helped lead the development and launch of the Dreamcast. One of Stolar’s top moves at the time was acquiring the Visual Con Concept for Sega of America and creating 2K Sports.
The Dreamcast did well in the US, but on a global basis it lost out to the Sony PlayStation 2.
“I took over the Sega position based on conversations with Hayao Nakayama, who was then the company’s president,” Stolar said. “We will be establishing and introducing a new hardware system that can play online multiplayer games. That became the Dreamcast. I was aiming for that. Unfortunately, Nakayama was kicked out of the company by Mr. Okawa at the end of 1999, and when he was kicked out of the company, I also had a dispute with Japan. I was also pushed out.”
In 1999, he joined Mattel. He saw some success selling the Barbie video game during the tenure of Mattel CEO Jill Barad, who acquired The Learning Company.
“It was the right decision for Mattel to enter the software business,” says Stolar. “They just bought the wrong company. She didn’t realize she was buying a company with the highest revenue but no profit. When I joined the company, they were losing a million dollars a day. That’s when the board asked me to leave the business, that’s what I did.”
In late 2005, Stolar became a consultant and director at Adscape Media, and he later sold the company to Google for $23 million. By that time, he had become a game evangelist at Google, and he was hoping to get them into the game business.
“There was no interest in games at Google at the time,” Stolar said. “I went to the CEO, Eric Schmidt, and said, ‘Why don’t we put ads in all these games and give them away for free online?’ “We’re not in the game business,” he said. I said, ‘We’re not in the game business. We do not develop games. We get games from publishers and stream them through our online network. ‘ He wouldn’t do it. That’s when I knew I should leave the company. I started helping them evangelize, but I knew there was no future for me.”
Then Stolar turned to startups. He runs companies like GetFugu, Zoom Platform, Jordan Freeman Group and CogniToys. When I did the interview in 2015, Stolar was 68 years old when he took on this role at CogniToys.
In that 2015 interview, I reminded Stolar that comedian Martin Short once joked at a game awards show that Bernie had worked at every company in the game business.
“For me, it’s about the team and the product. If you don’t have the right team, you won’t be able to win,” Stolar replied. “If you look at what I did at Sega, I basically fired all the seniors from sales and marketing and brought in a whole new team. I brought in Peter Moore, who used to work with me at Reebok. When I brought Peter in, Hayao Nakayama said to me, “Why would I hire a shoe salesman?” I said, “I don’t care about that. I believe he understands how to build a brand. I want to rebuild this brand, because right now we are showing consumers that we are losing money. We need to show them that we are a winning company. He finally agreed with me, and so Peter got the job.”
At the end of our interview in 2015, Stolar said, “I’ve been in this job since 1980. I love this business. I love this job because I get to work with young and enthusiastic people. I’m one of the gray-haired old men in the industry, but it’s been amazing to work with all these young talents.”
Stolar joked that he could be a grandfather to the CEOs he is mentoring. I asked Stolar how long he would be working.
“Put it this way. I spoke to two individuals about this, Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch,” he said. “Both are in their 80s. Both are billionaires. They are certainly not. work, right? And both said to me, ‘If you retire, you die.’ I believe. My father, when he sold his liquor store and shut it down, passed away three months later. I’m not going to stop.”
The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Pacific Time at the Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“I will miss you Bernie – I always appreciate you for pulling me into AdscapeMedia,” Jay Randy Gordon said in a message to GamesBeat. “I’ll toast you in the clubhouse next time I’m golfing while remembering some of your New York expressions like, ‘F’em if they can’t joke.”
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