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Bernie Stolar sucks

#1 User is offline Black Squirrel 

Posted 23 November 2017 - 12:30 PM

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I feel like I might have asked this before but it's always fun, so whatever.

The internet widely claims that Sega of America, and particularly the likes of ex-president Bernie Stolar (and to a lesser extent his successor, Peter Moore) actively discouraged certain types of games being released for the Sega Saturn. Classic examples include "2D games are bad" and "RPGs will never sell"... before selling a bunch of 2D RPGs.


Is there actually any tangible evidence to suggest this was once a Sega thing? It's just I was introduced to a wonderful quote yesterday, in which Sony discouraged Namco from releasing Pac-Man on the PlayStation because it "doesn't have an ending", and I'm wondering if this is broadly a PlayStation story confused as a Saturn one. Bernie Stolar (who probably made these decisions) being in an exec at Sony Computer Entertainment America before migrating to Sega.

During 1995/1996, Sony also whined at Capcom for trying to release Buster Bros. Collection, and Working Designs for wanting to translate Arc the Lad. I seem to recall a Mega Man story too - I'll have to look it up.

#2 User is offline JaxTH 

Posted 23 November 2017 - 01:36 PM

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I mostly see the "no RPGs" equated with Shining Force.

#3 User is offline 360 

Posted 23 November 2017 - 02:36 PM

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He was pretty immortalised in Sega lore due to that infamous "The Saturn is not our future" quotation years ago. The guy has a bad rep almost single handedly down to that.

It's definitely an interesting subject however and I'll be keeping an eye on this thread. It's a cool investigation/discussion to have.

#4 User is offline Candescence 

Posted 23 November 2017 - 03:06 PM

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Bernie Stolar was a scumbag who caused problems for Sony, but a lot more for Sega. He had no business being a game industry executive.

#5 User is offline Kiddo Cabbusses 

Posted 25 November 2017 - 11:32 AM

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View PostJaxTH, on 23 November 2017 - 01:36 PM, said:

I mostly see the "no RPGs" equated with Shining Force.


IIRC the issue with Shining Force III was just as much on Sega Japan as it was Sega of America so I can't pin that one entirely on Bernie Stolar (though I have every suspicion he contributed to it.)

Some of the things I'm pretty certain CAN be blamed directly on Stolar's policies:

1) Game Arts porting it's Saturn JRPGs to Playstation seemingly SPECIFICALLY for localization purposes, especially Grandia, which was Saturn-exclusive in Japan, becoming Playstation-exclusive stateside.
2) Magic Knight Rayearth going from being an "early Saturn title" to "The very last US Saturn release", and the falling out with Working Designs that happened as this occured.
3) No 4M adapter = the US Saturn lacked ports of X-men Vs. Street Fighter and other Capcom CPS2 games that ended up getting botched Playstation ports. Capcom basically stopped localized Saturn ports after Alpha 2.
4) He probably pushed the "2D is dead" publicly even HARDER than Sony did (A lot of Sony's policies were behind-the-scenes development stuff; Stolar OUTRIGHT SAID THIS KIND OF THING in magazine publications), which ironically may have contributed to modern Sonic's failures as the distancing from "classic" Sonic caused the 3D ceiling to be hit even harder. It likely also contributed to Sonic 3D Blast being seen as a subpar game as it, well, wasn't "real 3D". Generally, his policy worked contrary to Sega's big strengths which was a contributor to Saturn's failure and perceptions of 2D games which persisted until indies came along.


There's probably some others I don't know, but generally, yeah, you almost would think Sega of Japan put Stolar their as self-sabotage, it was that bad.

I don't know how much better Kalinske would have done in this situation but I'm certain he'd at least have had a vested interest in Saturn's market success, unlike Stolar.

#6 User is offline Ritz 

Posted 15 December 2017 - 01:28 AM

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View PostKiddo Cabbusses, on 25 November 2017 - 11:32 AM, said:

3) No 4M adapter = the US Saturn lacked ports of X-men Vs. Street Fighter and other Capcom CPS2 games that ended up getting botched Playstation ports. Capcom basically stopped localized Saturn ports after Alpha 2.

Bernie Stolar dropped the ball with the RAM cartridge X-men Vs. Street Fighter could've expanded the market

#7 User is offline Candescence 

Posted 15 December 2017 - 04:35 AM

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It's just deliciously ironic that 2D games are back in a big way these days and that Sonic's best title in forever was basically a 2D Saturn game.

#8 User is offline Black Squirrel 

Posted 15 December 2017 - 12:33 PM

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View PostBlack Squirrel, on 23 November 2017 - 12:30 PM, said:

I seem to recall a Mega Man story too - I'll have to look it up.

For the record, this is Mega Man X3, which was blocked by Sony for being 2D.

Interestingly Mega Man X4 was also blocked by Sony for a bit before they caved in.


I still need to hunt out the reason X3 skipped US Saturns, but from the sounds of things, a Saturn X4 was always planned.



There's a rumour going around that Mega Man 8 was set to be a Saturn exclusive, and was thrust onto the PlayStation when Sony got agitated. Again, not sure how valid these claims are either but it might be a thing.
This post has been edited by Black Squirrel: 15 December 2017 - 12:37 PM

#9 User is offline itsstillthinking 

Posted 15 December 2017 - 03:55 PM

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While Bernie made A LOT of mistakes i don't think it is very nice all the bad thing's people have said about him over the years. While bernie did contribute toward it, the thing that really killed Sega as a hardware manufacture was SOJ forcing Tom K to launch the 32x and then the Saturn early. While the e3 97 comment made it so Sega was in the red before 97 was over, if one looks at the sales records you find the Dreamcast did not fail. The problem was the mistakes mentioned above but regardless of what he did i will always remember Bernie for organizing the best launch in history and making my favorite game console what it is

#10 User is offline Black Squirrel 

Posted 15 December 2017 - 04:41 PM

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Incidentally getting old Sega E3 keynote speeches is something we need to do at some stage. It might be a struggle to find good quality footage, but transcripts would help.

#11 User is offline Black Squirrel 

Posted 16 December 2017 - 03:24 PM

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Found things

1) That feud with Victor Ireland of Working Designs is true. Here's an interview from 1998 to prove it, but WD did not cancel any of its Saturn projects, including the ones that weren't likely to sell (Magic Knight Rayearth)

2) Bernie Stolar fired nearly 300 people at Sega of America. A good chunk of those went to Sony Computer Entertainment of America - I don't know which ones.

3) Bernie Stolar wasn't particularly well liked in Japan. Questions were raised about his appointment of Peter Moore, who had no video game experience at the time (he used to work at Reebok). He was probably fired by Isao Okawa because of his personality (he does seem to have been fired btw).

3a) Some of Stolar's team also left around this period, such as Gretchen Eichinger who was in charge of third-party licensing. Maybe she was fired too - who knows.

4) Hayao Nakayama left Sega of Japan for some reason in 1999 and was replaced with people who knew even less about the US video game market than normal (for Sega). More importantly, they were more clueless about the subject than Stolar was.

5) Bernie Stolar is generally considered to have done a decent job with the Dreamcast's US launch... even though he was fired before it actually happened. And it was a record-breaking launch that out-performed Star Wars Episode I that year - it's not all bad news.





To me it seems as if the man made most of his enemies during his tenure at Sony, and his reputation (not necessarily his policies) carried over to Sega. Being dressed as Superman in an issue of Next Generation magazine seems to have gone down worse with the Japanese than his E3 keynote.



Fun fact: the man had 20+ years of experience in the sector before joining Sega, having previously managed the Atari Lynx and running his own arcade. So maybe more qualified than you think. Or not.

#12 User is offline Cooljerk 

Posted 16 January 2018 - 06:42 PM

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View PostBlack Squirrel, on 16 December 2017 - 03:24 PM, said:

Fun fact: the man had 20+ years of experience in the sector before joining Sega, having previously managed the Atari Lynx and running his own arcade. So maybe more qualified than you think. Or not.


Oh boy, after all my research of how epyx and atari handled the lynx, I'd lean way more towards "unqualified."

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