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Thread: Bernie Stolar

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    Default Bernie Stolar

    Where is this guy now, anyways?

    History seems to show that Bernie Stolar single handedly set up the Dreamcast launch, bringing the third parties and bringing the retailers to the table to make the DC's North American launch the most successful console launch in history.

    One month before 9.9.99 SoJ shit-canned Bernie supposedly because they just didn't like him. This put a shadow on the DC's launch, but Dreamcast had so much of the big MO, that it wasn't even phased.

    Discussion Question:

    Would Sega have lived to fight another day if they had not fired Stolar?

    Discuss!

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    Default And now for my two cents

    In 2001 Sega did have the install base in the US to continue with the Dreamcast, they just didn't have the marketing power; they let PS2's hype kill the Dreamcast. And it wasn't the PS2 that killed the DC, it was the hyped up PS2 that existed only in the minds of consumers that killed it. I'd like to think that with Stolar heading up things that Sega's marketing would be what it should've always been.

    I am sure that Stolar wouldn't have wasted money promoting Space Channel 5 and Jet Grind Radio, two excellent cliche games, but nothing that was ever going to have mass appeal in America, especially not SC5.

    Some blame Bernie for the Saturn's downfall. I'd wager that it wouldn't have fell from grace had Bernie been on board from day one. Saturn's death really didn't have so much to do with that Stolar was trying to push up Dreamcast's launch.

    The Saturn died in the US in 1998, a year before Dreamcast's release date. SoA was on their own, and they had to quickly change their infrastructure from Saturn focused to Dreamcast ready, and they had no money.

    Stolar made the only decision that he could: Lose more money on Saturn, or prep for Dreamcast? He preped for the Dreamcast's dream launch on 9.9.99 which made history and the record books.

    I don't see how anyone can think that canning Stolar was SoJ's greatest move, to me it was obviously their worst. Stolar single handedly orchistrated the third party support that Dreamcast had, which was substancial even without EA; he also oversaw set-up most successful console launch in history at the time.

    I think he wouldn't have let Sony's marketing propaganda get out of control, and I think he would've used SoA's resources to create, develop, and promote more games that have mainstream appeal. How much did Sega hopelessly invest in SC5 and JGR? Good games? Yes, but a gigantic mistake.

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    I heard Bernie helped start Digital Life in New York. Haven't heard anything since.
    I don't want you to hate me, I want you to want to hate me - GamersUniteMagazine.com

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    I once hung out with Bernie Stolar for about two hours before I realized who he was. True story.

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    Pear (Level 6) Xexyz's Avatar
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    *Sigh*, PS2 hype was NOT the reason why the DC went downhill. Sega was in a pile of debt by 2001. Sega had no money to continue on with Dreamcast production. If they did, it probably would have lived on longer. Heck, It might have sold similar or possibly better than the GCN and Xbox had it stayed around a few more years. But it didn't, because Sega's numerous marketing mistakes and wasted research resources drove them to failure with the Dreamcast.

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    Pear (Level 6) Melf's Avatar
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    Default Re: And now for my two cents

    Quote Originally Posted by Zadoc
    Some blame Bernie for the Saturn's downfall. I'd wager that it wouldn't have fell from grace had Bernie been on board from day one. Saturn's death really didn't have so much to do with that Stolar was trying to push up Dreamcast's launch.
    I'm sure his telling the press in July of 1997 that the Saturn had been stillborn and was not Sega's future had a lot to do with accelerating its death and tarnishing the company's shit image even more. You can't release two add-ons, kill them off, release another console, kill it off, and say "no wait! This time we mean it!" and expect developers and gamers to buy into it.

    Stolar made the only decision that he could: Lose more money on Saturn, or prep for Dreamcast? He preped for the Dreamcast's dream launch on 9.9.99 which made history and the record books.
    I'll admit, he did a wonderful job on the DC's launch. It was still a day late and a dollar short. As history has shown us, the best launch in gaming history up to the time could not overcome the terrible, terrible handling of the Saturn by Sega. 5-star game policy for a console starving for games? Pissing off one of the few loyal developers the console had left? The DC could not wipe away fuck ups like that.

    I don't see how anyone can think that canning Stolar was SoJ's greatest move, to me it was obviously their worst. Stolar single handedly orchistrated the third party support that Dreamcast had, which was substancial even without EA; he also oversaw set-up most successful console launch in history at the time.
    No, SOJ's worst mistake was screwing over Tom Kalinski. He's the man who handed them the 16-bit market and gave them a huge 3rd party base, something Stolar and SOJ pissed away. Why do you think there was no EA or Working Designs at launch and only token support by companies like Konami and Namco? Hell, Namco said flat out that if Soul Calibur failed to sell a million copies they would cease support for the DC. The game sold like gangbusters and what'd they give us? Mr. Driller...

    Stolar made some great decisions, right after he made some incredibly bad ones. To be fair though, he wasn't the real problem. Hayao Nakayama is the man responsible for Sega's current position and he deserves to live in infamy forever.

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    I have more to say to this when it's a more reasonable hour, but seriously, where is Stolar now?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xexyz
    *Sigh*, PS2 hype was NOT the reason why the DC went downhill. Sega was in a pile of debt by 2001. Sega had no money to continue on with Dreamcast production. If they did, it probably would have lived on longer. Heck, It might have sold similar or possibly better than the GCN and Xbox had it stayed around a few more years. But it didn't, because Sega's numerous marketing mistakes and wasted research resources drove them to failure with the Dreamcast.
    No one ever wants to hear that, but even as much as I love Sega, it's the truth.

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    yea the debt issue was a strong factor - but i also agree with the ps2 hype -- i spent a good amount of time in the game stores before the DC launch and after and there was a large amount of people who all said im not buying - im waitng for the PS2 - its going to be like this and that (which we all know didnt realy happen - but it sold alot of systems)
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    I was with Melf until he said Sega was in it's state due to Hayao Nakayama. If you guys think one person can single-handedly take down a company, then you have a lot to learn about business. You have to make a collosal fuck-up (which is not really possible on the level we're talking about) to single handedly do this evil deed everyone is referring to. Debt, shitty support, and poor choices by many employees of Sega are no doubt key factors, but there are others. I think an overlooked one was the reputation leading up to the DC. I wasn't in Amerca for the launch, but even as I understand it was huge, there were millions of gamers very happy w/ sticking to their PS for a while.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    I was with Melf until he said Sega was in it's state due to Hayao Nakayama. If you guys think one person can single-handedly take down a company, then you have a lot to learn about business. You have to make a collosal fuck-up (which is not really possible on the level we're talking about) to single handedly do this evil deed everyone is referring to. Debt, shitty support, and poor choices by many employees of Sega are no doubt key factors, but there are others. I think an overlooked one was the reputation leading up to the DC. I wasn't in Amerca for the launch, but even as I understand it was huge, there were millions of gamers very happy w/ sticking to their PS for a while.
    And how exactly do you think Sega earned its reputation leading up to the DC? Nakayama was the one who gave the order to discontinue the Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X in order to focus on the Saturn. A great decision in Japan perhaps, but disasterous everywhere else. He killed the Genesis in '95, even though Kalinski- you know, the guy who made the Genesis a success in America in the first place - told him that the 16-bit market had at least a year of life left in it. I'd call that a colossal fuck-up.

    Sega killed two expensive add-ons in order to push a console that never took off, thereby burying their reputation as a hardware manufacturer. Stolar may have done everything right with the DC's launch (integrated modem, killer apps, low price) but it was too little, too late. The public was already in Sony's pocket.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Wrong
    Quote Originally Posted by Xexyz
    *Sigh*, PS2 hype was NOT the reason why the DC went downhill. Sega was in a pile of debt by 2001. Sega had no money to continue on with Dreamcast production. If they did, it probably would have lived on longer. Heck, It might have sold similar or possibly better than the GCN and Xbox had it stayed around a few more years. But it didn't, because Sega's numerous marketing mistakes and wasted research resources drove them to failure with the Dreamcast.
    No one ever wants to hear that, but even as much as I love Sega, it's the truth.
    I agree with both of you

    I really wish that the dreamcast kept on

    but it's just one of those things.


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    And how exactly do you think Sega earned its reputation leading up to the DC?
    I just don't think you can blame one man for taking down a corporation. It just doesn't work. Sure, big players can fuck up the works, but there are other factors. Decisions made to quit supporting SegaCD and 32x aren't really questionable. You only have x amount of resources. Potentially, there were mountains more games that could've possibly been ported over from Japan on the Saturn than either of the other two. It was the right decision in my book, although other key factors in their Saturn decision making weren't so hot.
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    Pear (Level 6) Melf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    Decisions made to quit supporting SegaCD and 32x aren't really questionable. You only have x amount of resources.
    Thing is, by spreading itself so thin and then deciding to focus its resources, Sega killed its brand name with gamers. This contributed heavily to the Saturn's U.S. failure and the DC's early death.

    Potentially, there were mountains more games that could've possibly been ported over from Japan on the Saturn than either of the other two.
    It's not that simple. Why would you simply dismiss entirely an installed userbase of 28 million Genesis systems? Even licensed shovelware would have been snapped up by casual consumers, as simple proof that the console was still alive. Even better would have been porting over those few great titles left, which is what Nintendo did with the SNES in the final days.

    It was the right decision in my book, although other key factors in their Saturn decision making weren't so hot.
    It was the decision that basically killed the Saturn right out of the gate by burning most of its potential user base, who flocked to Sony instead. Add to that the Saturn's disasterous U.S. launch, Stolar's shit attitude with 3rd parties, and his 5-star program, and you've got the makings of a company's end.

    So yeah, you could say it wasn't the only bad decision, but it was by far the most influential.

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    I once hung out with Bernie Stolar for about two hours before I realized who he was. True story.
    Ok, Frank...details! That sounds like a great stroy...

    Now, everyone claims they know the reason of the DC failure in this thread, and others are shooting other DPers down saying,"No that's not why! It was THIS!"

    Things aren't that black and white...pretty much all the reasons mentioned above are true. Some more than others, but basically all of them. They all add up to a collosal fuck up. It was a several pronged approach, not just ONE thing.

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    Finally someone that doesn't bash Bernie Stolar right off the bat, kudos to you Zadoc. Sadly I don't know his current whereabouts.

    Everyone blames Bernie Stolar for one thing or another, but that's what happens when you have a finger in nearly every pie in this industry. Bernie Stolar never saw the Saturn as something that could make serious money because of how hard it was to develop for with it's two SH2 processors. Very few developers could fully utilize one of the processors let alone getting them to work together at their peak. In fact (something I haven't seen brought up in this thread yet) Stolar was at Sony working on the original PlayStation project at the time of the Saturn's launch, so he knew what successful "next gen" hardware had to do and be pushed to sell both to developers and consumers.

    Sega of Japan was vastly flawed from the time the Saturn launched and things didn't improve when the Dreamcast rolled around. Basically SoA was SoJ's bastard child and whatever big daddy SoJ said went - even though SoJ once again bungled a console launch in Japan (the Dreamcast) and SoA was actually going to do things right.

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    Default Bernie Stolar, Dead at Age 75

    Bernie Stolar, Dead at Age 75

    Atari, Sony, And Sega Legend Bernie Stolar Dies Aged 75
    Matt Gardner
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    A British writer covering indie and retro gaming, esports, and more.
    Jun 27, 2022,06:00am EDT

    Gaming legend Bernard "Bernie" Stolar, pictured here in 1999, has passed away at the age of 75. Next Generation Magazine, June 1999 / Ethan Johnson

    Bernard “Bernie” Stolar, a former top executive at Atari, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Sega of America, passed away after a long illness on June 22, at the age of 75. As an often divisive but influential and admired figure in gaming, Stolar leaves a legacy that has shaped modern gaming as we know it.

    Stolar, who began his game career as a coin-op entrepreneur before landing a job as president of Atari, would go on to oversee the U.S. launch of the upstart PlayStation with Sony, as well as the monumental challenge of the American Dreamcast’s 9/9/99 launch–an iconic date he chose himself.

    In the days since his passing, Steven L. Kent–author and freelance gaming journalist for Parade, USA Today, MSNBC, and the Chicago Tribune, among others–has collected memories of Stolar from industry luminaries, helping to tell the story of a man who has shaped the careers of some of the gaming world’s most influential figures.

    Born October 9, 1946, Stolar’s introduction to the video game business came with the 1981 release of the arcade game Shark Attack. Created by Pacific Novelty, Shark Attack nearly never came to be; after the release of Jaws in 1975, Universal Studios considered legal action against Stolar for the IP, but he successfully negotiated permission to manufacture 1,000 Shark Attack machines without paying royalties. Stolar built 990 machines, then pulled the plug on the project.

    Over the following ten years, Stolar didn’t stray far from games. He opened an arcade in San Francisco–the State Street Arcade–before taking a job with Atari’s coin-op division. He was still at Atari in 1984 when former Commodore founder Jack Tramiel purchased the company, and eventually became president of Atari from 1990 to 1993.
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    Stolar, during his time at Pacific Novelty. Replay Magazine, January 1983 / Ethan Johnson

    However, Stolar decided to risk his career by taking a job with what was, back then, a lightweight in the video game industry: Sony Computer Entertainment.

    Sony and Nintendo had once announced a partnership to create a CD-ROM-based “Play Station.” It was originally meant to be revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991, but after reviewing an older contract, then-president of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi discovered Sony had total control over anything published on the “SNES CD-ROM.” Instead of renegotiating with Sony, Nintendo canceled everything. Sony decided to go it alone, and Stolar was at the forefront of its eventual release.

    During his three-year tenure as Sony Computer Entertainment America’s executive vice president, in charge of business development and third-party relations, Stolar took on a more public persona, using his past knowledge of coin-op gaming to his advantage. As a result, he helped launch one of the most successful consoles of all time in the U.S. on September 9, 1995.

    “I met Bernie in 1995,” says Rob Dyer, who now serves as the chief operating officer at Capcom. “I was the vice president of international operations at Crystal Dynamics, doing deals, selling products, and getting our products placed with distributors overseas. Bernie had just started as the head of third-party for PlayStation.

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

    “We had failed on 3DO. We had failed on Saturn. Then we made it on PlayStation. I did a ton of deals with Bernie over the years… especially when I became president of Crystal. He was a mentor of mine.”

    Prior to the PS1’s launch, Stolar made an early and somewhat controversial decision not to pursue role-playing games for PlayStation, choosing to focus on creating an unrivaled launch lineup to lure the biggest possible market share away from Sega and Nintendo as quickly as possible. Stolar instead concentrated on fighting games, among other genres, and landed a major deal with Williams to secure Mortal Kombat 3–a title that would help Sony establish an early lead in the U.S. console market.

    Shuji Utsumi, the co-COO at Sega who then served as vice president of product acquisition during Stolar’s time at Sony, says: “Bernie contributed to making PlayStation a winning platform and [the] most supported by developers to this day.”

    Co-COO at Sega, and former VP at Sony, Shuji Utsumi credits Stolar with the PlayStation's ongoing ... [+] getty

    While the Sega Saturn took an early lead over PlayStation in Japan–in part due to the popularity of an arcade port of Virtua Fighter–Sega’s infamous show at E3 in 1995 was completely undone by Sony’s Steve Race, who took to the stand and said three words: “Two ninety-nine.” With it, the PlayStation had undercut the Saturn by $100 in the 32-bit era’s nascent western market, adding to Sega’s development and distribution woes.

    Then came a surprising move. Despite apparently beating the Sega Saturn in the early days of the mid-90s console wars, Stolar became the president and CEO of Sega of America, replacing Tom Kalinske.

    By the time Stolar joined Sega, Sony had dispatched the Saturn and was preparing to overwhelm Nintendo, which was still preparing to unveil the N64. Stolar’s initial victory proved pyrrhic in his new role at Sega; instead, he looked to the future, and one last opportunity for Sega to shine.

    When Sega pulled the plug on the Saturn in 1998 and announced new hardware, Stolar worked feverishly to create a marketing campaign that aimed to stymie Sony’s grip on American gamers. Under his leadership, Sega developed and teased the Dreamcast, arranged an unprecedented 18-game launch line up, and hired Reebok’s senior vice president of sports marketing, Peter Moore.

    “I thank Bernie for my start in this industry, a career that has lasted 20-plus years,” says Moore, who went on to top positions with Microsoft, EA, and Liverpool Football Club. “None of that would have happened without Bernie believing in some shoe guy who could take skills for marketing sneakers and use them to market video games.

    “He was feisty, combative for all the right reasons, and wanted to do the right thing all the time for the customer.”

    The Olympian, August 8, 1999 / Associated Press / Ethan Johnson

    Utsumi, who joined Stolar at Sega in product development, adds: “At Sega, [Stolar] acquired Visual Concepts to re-boost Sega Sports, establish the 2K Sports brand, and launch Dreamcast. I had been with him during those days and had a wonderful time with him, [seeing] the industry’s next evolution.”

    In August 1999–with the Dreamcast launch just one month away–Stolar left Sega after a number of disagreements with the Japanese head office over the launch date and modem inclusion, which he successfully fought to include, as well as the console’s initial price. Moore replaced him, but Stolar’s plans stayed in place. The September 9, 1999 U.S. launch of the Sega Dreamcast still proved to be an incredible success, even though the console itself was doomed.

    Despite his abrupt exit, stories of Stolar’s Sega tenure continue to show the mark of a man well-loved by his colleagues. Former colleague Scott Hawkins, who now works in software licensing and partner relations at Nintendo, remembers his tenacity in the face of competition.

    “Bernie loved battling against our competitors,” he says. “One great example is when he was president of Sega of America and he learned about an upcoming Sony-hosted golf tournament for third-party partners. Obviously, Sega was not invited. Bernie had people replace Sony golf balls with Sega golf balls, [and] extra Sega golf balls were strategically placed in the holes on the golf course.

    “He gave the green light to have someone hired to drive a golf cart around the course dressed up as Sonic the Hedgehog, and he even had a plane hired to fly over the golf tournament with banners flying behind the plane. Despite this being a Sony event, it was clear that Sega would be [...] front and center for all of the third-party partners.

    “Bernie was bold, unapologetic, and a force of nature. We will miss his passion, his competitive spirit, and his friendship.”

    Stolar left Sony for Sega, where he attempted to reverse the tide for the company's ailing hardware ... [+] Next Generation Magazine, October 1999 / Ethan Johnson

    After leaving front-line console gaming, Stolar remained a game industry icon. He was President of Mattel Interactive for three years, worked as an advisor for Cisco and Golden Gate Capital, and was the Chairman and CEO of Adscape Media which was bought by Google, after which Stolar became the company’s games evangelist.

    Stolar remained active in games right up to his death. In 2014, he was named the executive chairman of ZOOM Platform, becoming a personal mentor for Jordan Freeman, the company’s young founder.

    “I shouldn’t have been able to reach a person like Bernie,” says Freeman, “but he took my call, was willing to meet with me, and asked to look at my business proposal. He gave everyone a chance. Over time, I learned I wasn’t the first one nor the last who experienced this.”

    Sherry McKenna, the CEO of Oddworld Inhabitants, describes Stolar as honest and unfalteringly loyal. Having first met him in the 1970s, McKenna lost touch with Stolar until she left a career in the movie business to co-found the famed studio behind Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.

    “[Oddworld co-founder] Lorne Lanning and I were just starting out at Oddworld Inhabitants and had just moved to new offices in California, when I get this message across my desk that says ‘vice president of Sony, Bernie Stolar.’”

    Like Freeman, McKenna phoned Stolar not expecting him to take her call. Instead, he picked up and mentored her, enabling her and Lanning to sign a deal with SCE America.

    She adds: “When Bernie believed in you, he absolutely believed in you. There weren’t any questions, he just helped you succeed.”

    In a recent interview with Authority Magazine, interactive technology pioneer Thomas Kidrin named Stolar as the one person who got him where he was today, characterizing him as someone who never forgot where he started.

    “Bernie was always gracious in inviting me to high-level private dinners, introducing me to industry players from the U.S. and Japan, and always offering advice and analysis on technical game design and marketing strategies,” he said. “As Bernie moved up the corporate ladder to the C suite, I always would remind him that, at heart, he has always been an electronics salesman, albeit one of the best.”

    Mark Subotnick, the senior director of the Desktop Enthusiast Business for Intel–who worked with Stolar alongside Utsumi as VP of product acquisition at Sega, continues: “Bernie was my boss, my friend, my mentor, and an incredible leader. He was always true to himself and gave you the brutal truth. He kept a true open-door policy and believed in the tyranny of the idea.

    “I would not be where I am today without Bernie. His impact on our industry will be felt for years. He is greatly missed.”

    Rod Cousens, the former CEO at Acclaim, Codemasters, and Jagex, who was made a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the computer games industry in 2010, says of his friend: “Bernie had presence and it reached far and wide. He was able to navigate global cultures, be listened to, and command respect. No mean feat.

    “There are many who owe their career in video games to him, as he was able to identify talent and break out their careers as they went on to do great things. He left his mark in the video games business and touched many around him. My family and I felt that friendship always and I shall be forever grateful for that.”

    Last but certainly not least, Ken Kutaragi–the so-called “Father of the PlayStation” who oversaw the creation of PlayStations 1, 2, and 3, as well as the PSP–was incredibly close to Stolar, and gave perhaps the most emotional tribute to his best friend in tribute to his storied career.

    “Bernie was the man who devoted his life and passion to the video game industry,” says Kutaragi. “He was also one of my best friends and we spent many moments together, even when he was away from work.

    “His friendly smile and playful gestures are still burning on my eyelids. Thank you for all your hard work, time and dedication. Please rest in peace in heaven.”
    Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattgar...-dies-aged-75/

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