Bernard Stoller, who played a key role in the development and marketing of video game consoles in the 1990s, including the original PlayStation and Sega’s Dreamcast, died on June 22 in Los Angeles. He was 75 years old.
Jordan Freeman, founder and CEO of Zoom Platform, a video game company for which Mr. Stoller served as executive chairman, confirmed his death, which he said was caused by a long illness.
The 1990s were a time of intense competition and rapid technological advancement in the video game industry. Mr. Stoller was at the center of a constantly changing scene, making bold decisions that were admired by some but broke the hearts of others who loved certain systems or types of games.
He was executive vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment USA from 1993 to 1996, when Sony was developing the original PlayStation, which was introduced in the United States in September 1995. Nintendo and Sega dominated the market at the time, but the PlayStation changed that. Equation
On the one hand, at $ 299, the PlayStation reduced rival Sega Saturn by 100. And Mr. Stoller, along with action-heavy titles like Mortal Kombat 3, rejected complex role-playing games that appealed to a relatively small and silly group of customers.
The PlayStation hit, but Mr. Stoller had a short timer at Sony: in 1996 he moved to Sega as president of Sega of America. He quickly killed the Sega Saturn, much to the dismay of fans of that system.
“I had my brain stranded on the way to save Saturn, but it had gone too far and was too expensive and difficult to develop,” Mr. Stoller told The Dreamcast Junkyard blog in 2018. “Sega was almost bankrupt, they had a need. New consoles and they need it right away. Growing up or going home was the only option. ”
The Dreamcast console was his idea to go big, offering 128-bit processing while the competition was at 64.
In 1998, a year before Dreamcast was released in the United States, he told The Ottawa Citizen that “Dreamcast is Sega’s global market leader for the 21st century.”
But Mr. Stoller was not part of that future at Sega, which was still unpredictable. Shortly before Dreamcast went on sale, it was sacked in one of the perpetual shake-ups that regularly plagued the video game industry. Still, Dreamcast, for at least one hot minute, was eye-catching.
Peter H. Lewis wrote in a review in The New York Times earlier that month: The current market leader, Sony PlayStation, looks grainy and shocking. Dreamcast is the closest thing to an arcade-quality game experience you can get at home. ”
Mr. Stoller has been interviewed several times over the years by Dean Takahashi, the lead author of the Gamesbeat website.
“Bernie Stoller’s personality and sharp wit made him uniquely refreshed in the growing corporate world of video games,” Mr. Takahashi said via email.
Mr Stoller did not cut words as he tried to worsen the situation in gaming hardware, Mr Takahashi said. He added, “The results were often pleasing, and it was pleasing to be a reporter at the time.”
Mr Stoller was born on October 9, 1946, according to a Forbes obituary. Information about his early life and his survivors was not immediately available.
He made his debut in video games in 1980 when he helped Brian Semler start manufacturing Pacific Novelty, which developed coin-operated arcade games. The game called Shark Attack was one of his most hit games, in which the player is a shark who tries to escape from the scuba divers who came out to kill him.
A few years later, Mr. Stoller and Mr. Semler sold the company to Attari.
“We thought we were smart because we sold the company for stock,” Mr. Stoller told Gamesbeat in 2015. “Then the attic exploded and closed.”
After the revival of the attic in the early 1990s, Mr. Stoller spent many years there as an executive. He joined Sony in 1993 and Sega in 1996.
The Sega Dreamcast initially sold well. But with the introduction of the PlayStation 2 in 2000, its appeal waned and Sega’s hopes of returning to the top of the video game were dashed. He worked with several other start-ups over the next decade and joined the Zoom platform in 2014, which his Twitter account says sells “old games played on the new system.”
Mr Freeman said Mr Stoller was keen to support them.
“I met Bernie when I was 16, he had no reason to agree to meet me, but he took the opportunity,” Mr Freeman said via email. “He gave everyone a chance. He was a model for everyone who knew him. ”