Retro Game Story: The Incredible Story of Zaxxon for Commodore 64


La Storia

Ethics, as we know, is one of the cornerstones of any professional figure. When we talk about lawyers and consultants, the total fidelity and confidentiality towards the clients should be an indispensable creed.

When Robert Crane, in February 1982, entered the legal department of SEGA Enterprises Inc. (at the time owned by Paramount) he clearly did not understand this vision. His specific assignment was to evaluate new business opportunities related to the use of video games produced by Sega. In September 1983 Crane founded, by himself, a small company called Universal Licensing. Soon after, he went to SEGA and said he had found a customer interested in the purchase – what a surprise – of a license to convert Zaxxon for Commodore 64. The customer was called Universal Licensing!

At the time, SEGA, like other great arcade entertainment brands, had no great interest in home conversions of their games, particularly if they were computers diffused mainly in Europe. They looked at this market in almost total ignorance. Therefore, the top management of the company was easily convinced by the talking of Crane.

The contract, of course compiled by Crane, would have earned SEGA $ 5,000 upfront and $ 5,000 after the game was released, plus 6 percent of sales revenue. Damn, they must have thought at SEGA, it’s a good deal! Who would ever buy Zaxxon for Commodore 64. We don’t even know what a Commodore 64 is. Great! It’s money given away. Go, Crane, proceed now!

There was a problem though. Crane, alias the fake Universal Licensing, not only did not have the money to pay for the license, but above all he had no idea how to make a computer game.

Crane, therefore, armed himself with a briefcase and a good suit and began to tour the software houses, trying to figure out if anyone could have an interest (and above all the ability) to develop this damn Zaxxon for Commodore 64. He found two companies: Synapse Software and HES (Human Engineered Corps).

Let’s imagine Crane sitting at the table with Synapse guys saying “So, how much do you give me for an err … EXCLUSIVE license for Zaxxon on the Commodore 64?” In his mind, meanwhile, he was thinking “I have to give SEGA $ 10,000. If I make 11,000, I’m already okay!”

Synapse looks in the wallet and hesitantly says “$ 50,000 is fine? We know that there is not a lot of money but we don’t have more. “

It took the salts to awaken poor Crane who had a semi-heart attack on the spot.

In short, the Zaxxon product was worth much, much, much more than Crane had ever thought. Yes, but how to legally sub-contract the game from Universal to Synapse and collect all the money without either SEGA or Synapse becoming aware of the triple-changeover?

Simple. It would have been enough to enter the SEGA office and add two tiny little lines in character 5 under the Universal / Sega contract that allowed the resale of the license. SEGA in the meantime slept and didn’t notice anything.

“But how do I sign this contract?” Crane thought. Not being able to OBVIOUSLY sign with his name from both parts of the contract, he invented a pseudonym, “Steve Knees”, with which he began to compile all the documents of Universal Licensing. So in practice the SEGA contracts were signed on one side by Crane and on the other by Knees, which was still him.

Steve Knees also actively participated in all SEGA and Synapse meetings. He was a handsome distinguished man. He smiled and spoke little. Very little. He spoke little especially because he was a tramp, paid $ 1000 in cash to wear a suit and pretend to understand something about high finance and video games for the two hours of the meeting.

In short, at the end of the fair, Universal sold the Zaxxon license for $ 50,000 to Synapse. So Crane earned ten times what he had spent.

La Storia di Zaxxon per Commodore 64 su Retro-Game.it

While Crane was enjoying his money, lying in a SPA with a Thai woman who was massaging him with essential oils, he received a call from HES, the other software house interested in developing Zaxxon for Commodore 64. “Oh, I’m sorry, Zaxxon has already been sold! “Said Crane. And the guy from HES “Pity, we were willing to give you $ 100,000 for that beautiful game !!”

Crane probably fell off the massage bed and pushed the Thai woman away.

And who would have ever had the courage to refuse $ 100,000?

He thought about it for a moment and picked up the receiver: “I have the game for you … Zaxxon is certainly gone … but I’ll get you converted – for the ridiculous sum of $ 100,000 in cash – nothing less than SUPER Zaxxon! “. Done deal!

In his enthusiasm, Crane had forgotten two things. The first is that he was NOT licensed to sell Super Zaxxon. The second is that Super Zaxxon was not even a game in its own right, but a “derivative” of Zaxxon, nothing else than an updated version. So, How he could solve the problem?

Simple! The answer was before his eyes. Being Super Zaxxon a “derivative” of Zaxxon would have been enough to say that they were in practice the same game. And being the game the same and being him, that is Steve Knees, that is Universal, licensee of Zaxxon automatically he was also licensee of Super Zaxxon. Does not make a turn not? Pure legal magic.

It was enough to re-enter the SEGA offices again while everyone was asleep and add two more lines, this time with character 3 to the SEGA-Universal contract. In the clause of the clause it was said that all games derived from Zaxxon were automatically included in the contract. No additional costs – of course. Crane, you’re a genius, aren’t you?

Richard Crane prepared a second license contract, between Universal and HES, which sub-contracted the development of Super Zaxxon. Not being able to sign himself as Richard Crane or as Steve Knees he decided to invent a third fictitious partner “Bruce Blumberg”, a new mysterious manager of Universal – HES licenses.

Richard Crane was already projected towards his future life in a small island in the Caribbean, surrounded by skinny models waving big fans while he sipped branded champagne.

But two unexpected things happen …

The first is that HES, all happy with the new Super Zaxxon license, starts saying this to everyone, doing a first-rate press campaign on all specialized newspapers. And these advertisements end up nothing less than in the hands of the SEGA management, who looks at himself in wonder and thinks “But we never sold the Super Zaxxon license!”.

The second thing that happens, even more serious, is that while our Richard was all busy writing contracts and counting money … he was fired from SEGA … for redundancy! His office was not very productive at SEGA … he … who had done nothing but write contracts since he arrived! 🙂

But Richard didn’t lose heart and decided, before taking his things away from the office, to rightly organize the sale of Carnival and Turbo licenses … but that’s another story!