OverviewIn 1990, Villa Crespo Software was formed by Dan Sejzer in Highland Park, IL named after the town in which he born in Argentina. Dan was a BASIC programmer who wrote two text games “Dr. Thorp’s Blackjack” and “Real Poker” which sold around 50,000 copies each. The distribution pipeline and finances from his friend and new partner, Skip Wood brought Villa Crespo Software into the limelight of computer game publishing. Dan Sejzer is a gambling industry expert at blackjack, poker, craps and roulette.
At the 1991 Consumer Electronic Show (CES), Dan sought free hardware and employees. At the Covox booth, Dan received a few free sound cards plus information about PSI Software’s owner Roger E. Pedersen. Roger E. Pedersen had freelanced for Gametek developing over a dozen games for the Apple 2, Commodore 64 and the IBM PC DOS platforms and had just released for Merit Software “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” the game industry’s first game that had the entire film’s music digitized into the game. Dan contracted with Roger to develop a “Video Poker” game and since CES was in Las Vegas, Roger started taking notes on all of the video poker variations. Within two weeks after CES, a working copy of video poker with Las Vegas, Atlantic City and user defined payout tables on a draw poker, joker poker, deuces poker and joker and deuces poker slot machine was playable. Dan sent the demo to his distributors and sales orders poured in. The legendary gambling expert “Dr. Stanford Wong” (Dr. John Ferguson) worked with Roger to teach players how to beat the video poker machines with several tutor modes and practice play.
With pre-sales of “Stanford Wong Video Poker” ordered, Dan offered Roger a position as Director of Development and lots of cash (salary plus royalties) plus an apartment next to the office. Roger worked with John Comeau on developing his shareware poker game into “Amarillo Slim’s Dealer’s Choice.” Villa Crespo Software (VCS) increased their distribution and their games were in every computer store. Next, VCS’ external testing company had a PC security product for DOS and Windows that became entitled “FailSafe.” Then, VCS contracted with Rosemary West who had published an astrology shareware application and with Roger’s design added Tarot, numerology and other future foretelling methodologies into the game “Rosemary West’s House of Fortunes.” The products “Flicks” and “Failsafe” contained a red LED on the cover (a patent that VCS applied for and received). Normally, software is displayed in stores spine out and front out costs $3,000 per month. The stores selling these items often had security guards calling the fire department and store owner assuming that the blinking red light was the beginnings of a fire. These products soon were displayed front out for free to stop the 3 A.M. store visits by the store’s manager.
In 1991, VCS was now becoming a large publisher and Dan and Skip wanted to make the 1992 annual sales better than the current year. This goal along with shareware developers calling Roger constantly complaining about crooked publishers and lack of income for their games started Roger’s innovation entitled “The Coffee Break Series.” Roger envisioned inexpensive software where the shareware developers would upgrade their games to compete with other retail games at $30 and the $40 VCS games would have abridged versions with a coupon to buy the full version. “The Coffee Break Series” became an instant hit as stores claimed to pay their rent just by the profits of selling these $14 games. Each CBS game came in a small 5 inch square box with gold trim on the front. The “The Coffee Break Series” games were also numbered for the anal gamer who would buy all of the series, the games came in a carton that boxed 20 games and fit in front of the cash register (a $5,000 a month location that the CBS carton was located for free).
Villa Crespo Software was expanding hiring Gabi Ladowski as the in-house artist, Lou Kesten as the in-house correspondence and marketing writer, Roger’s friend Michael Hausman as an external programmer who worked on “Dr. Thorp’s Blackjack” and Reva Schneider as head of QA and Technical Support. VCS also contracted with Flair Software from Great Britain to sell their games in the U.S.A.. Roger worked on a game show title that he had previously negotiated with its original designer, a high school student John Ricci entitled “Combination Lock” which was one of the best-selling original CBS titles.
In 1992, “Stanford Wong Video Poker” won the CES award for best game and was mentioned on 3 computer magazine covers. In 1993, “Flicks” and “FailSafe” won the prestigious CES awards. In 1993, VCS released “Flicks! Film Review Library” and a graphics application “MetaMorph 3D” and more CBS titles including “Windows Dr. Wong Video Poker.” “Flicks” designed and developed by Roger and Michael reviewed 30,000 films and could be searched by multiple fields such as actor, director, genre, year, rating and title. “Flicks” earned rave reviews calling it “required with every VCR sold” and outsold Microsoft’s “Cinemania” 4 to 1. Roger met with the National Captioning Institute and added a “closed caption” field to the product which had the NCI quarterly newsletter placing a free ad about “Flicks!” to its 5 million hearing impaired and non-English speaking members.
Villa Crespo Software was among the top ten publishers having around 30 titles on the stores’ shelves even its first graphics game “Stanford Wong Video Poker” was still selling well three years after it was first released and the CBS games were selling even after the Christmas to January Holiday season. Other publishers such as Microsoft, Sierra, Microprose and Maxis started copying the CBS packaging and price point by selling demos or abridged versions of their more expensive games.
Just when VCS received additional funding from Skip’s father and VCS had a celebration on its success, technology was about to destroy the planet of VCS. The CD technology had been announced and games such as “The Seventh Guest” were being shown at E3 and other industry shows. In 1993 to burn a master CD cost the company $100,000 which required a $1 million investment to make the entire cost reasonable. Villa Crespo Software didn’t have the funds to create original CD games so to stay alive and meet the distributors demands VCS made a “Coffee Break CD” which was a compilation of the entire CBS games on one CD.
Realizing that VCS was in financial trouble and could not compete in the CD game world against EA and Activision, Roger E. Pedersen left the company receiving his owed royalty money every week until it was paid in full. Villa Crespo Software became innovative and sold CDs based on VHS tapes on “Caring for Your Dog,” “Kittens to Cats,” ”Photography Made Easy” and a “Learning Magic” CD. These CDs failed but the large, better financed publishers again copied Villa Crespo Software by selling “The Animal Planet: Dogs,” “The Animal Planet: Cats,” “Penn & Teller Teaches Magic” and “David Copperfield’s Magic.”
In 1995, Villa Crespo Software unable to compete in the CD world of gaming closed its doors.
TriviaContact Address (1992):
Villa Crespo Software
1725 McGovern Street
Highland Park, IL 60035
Telephone: (708) 433-0500
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