The former Sega of America president who oversaw the launch of the Dreamcast in 1999 has died. Bernie Stolar, 75, was also a founding member of Sony Computer Entertainment America, which launched the PlayStation and several first-party games for it in 1995.
Stolar’s work for SCEA (now Sony Interactive Entertainment) helped build many of the franchises that remain to this day, including Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer. For Sega, Stolar acquired Visual Concepts and launched the 2K Sports label with the NFL 2K and NBA 2K series (both later sold to Take-Two Interactive).
Both were cornerstones of the Dreamcast’s launch in 1999, with Stolar credited with shifting the company’s focus towards the new console and away from the ailing Sega Saturn, which was rapidly losing market share to the new PlayStation in the US. Despite a solid performance in the US and a fan base that still adores it, Dreamcast was quickly discontinued in 2001 after losing to the PlayStation 2 in all other international markets.
Stolar joined Sega of America (SOA) in 1997 and later succeeded Tom Kalinske, the SOA President who oversaw the rise of Sega Genesis and the company’s head-to-head successes against Nintendo in the early 1990s. Stolar was hired by Sega’s Hayao Nakayama as a hardware consultant, with whom Kalinske had frequently clashed before his resignation. But when Nakayama was ousted from Sega’s board, Stolar wasn’t far behind.
“I accepted the position at Sega through discussions with Hayao Nakayama, who was the company’s chairman at the time,” Stolar said a tribute released on Saturday by Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat. “We would introduce and implement a new hardware system for online multiplayer games. This became Dreamcast. I pushed that. Unfortunately, Nakayama was pushed out of the company by him [Isao] Okawa in late 1999, and when he was thrown out, I also got into a fight with Japan.”
Stolar worked at various entertainment software companies over the next 17 years, including Google, which had purchased a company where he was a consultant and board member. Speaking to Takahashi, Stolar recalled trying to get Google into the games business by “taking games from publishers and streaming them over our online network.”
Google CEO Eric Schmidt wouldn’t do it, Stolar said. “That’s when I knew I should leave the company.” Fourteen years later, Google launched Stadia, a cloud gaming service that streamed games from major publishers to users through Google’s Chrome web browser.