Bernie Stolar, one of the most important video game executives of the 1990s, has passed away at the age of 75, GamesBeat reports.
Stolar began working in the video game business in 1980, first founding a coin-op company before moving to Atari, where he did everything from working on their arcade games to their later home console efforts to, of all things, leading development on the Lynx, Atari’s infamously enormous handheld device.
He then moved to Sony where he helped found the American division of the company’s PlayStation brand, serving as the company’s first executive vice president. While at Sony his biggest achievement was lining up a number of studios and properties for the PlayStation’s early library of games — forming relationships that in many cases endure in 2022 — including Ridge Racer, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro.
After the PlayStation’s launch Stolar moved to rivals Sega, where he did not mess around. As GamesBeat remembers:
“When I got to Sega I immediately said, ‘We have to kill Saturn. We have to stop Saturn and start building the new technology.’ That’s what I did. I brought in a new team of people and cleaned house. There were 300-some-odd employees and I took the company down to 90 employees to start rebuilding,” Stolar said.
While with Sega Stolar made another visionary long-term signing, buying a studio called Visual Concepts who would go on to become 2K Sports, and who continue to release the NBA 2K series to this day.
Stolar’s post-90s career was marked by spells at Mattel (where he pushed the company to double down on the production of Barbie video games) and Google, where he served as the company’s first ever “Games Evangelist”, a position he tried to use to champion the idea of a streaming game service, something the company waved off at the time and then…would revisit a decade later, long after Stolar had left, before completely screwing it up.