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The Logical Choice

Edu-Ware was an educational and entertainment software publisher established in 1979 by Sherwin Steffin and Steve Pederson. The company became known for it's extensive line of educational products, as well as its adventures games - in particular The Prisoner, written by visionary David Mullich.

David explains: "Steve and Sherwin Steffin met at UCLA, where Sherwin was working in the instructional technology department and Steve was a student in the Radio Department. When Sherwin was laid off, they decided to form Edu-Ware. Their original plan was to write software for managing radio stations, but that never happened. They wrote educational programs and games instead.

Steve wrote Space, Terrorist and another game called Zintar, as well as Compu-Spell (based on Sherwin's design). Sherwin wrote the early educational and utility software.

When Steve graduated from college, he took over as Edu-Ware's president. He was responsible for finances, marketing and operations, while Sherwin was in charge of product development.

Steve came up with the idea for the Empire series, after Game Designer's Workshop sued Edu-Ware for copyright infringement because Space was based on their Traveler role-playing game. There was an out-of-court settlement where Edu-Ware stopped production of Space and Space II, and Steve came up with the idea of the Empire series to replace them.

Windfall and Network sold in the hundreds of units, Space and Space II sold about a thousand units each, while The Prisoner, which was Edu-Ware's best-selling product during the company's first couple of years, sold somewhere in the thousands of units.

As Edu-Ware grew, the games sold in bigger numbers but represented a smaller fraction of our business compared to the educational software sales. Prisoner 2 sold somewhere in the 3-5 thousand unit range, while the Empire series sold in the low thousands. But Algebra 1, which was our all-time best-seller, sold tens of thousands of units. So, as time went on, it became harder and harder to justify game development.

Now, these sound like low sales figures compared to today's games, but Edu-Ware was a financially successful business, starting out as a "garage operation" making about $35K in its first year of operation in 1979, and despite two recessions, growing into a software publisher earning about $2 million a year when it was purchased by MSA in 1984. Unfortunately, the company lost money under MSA's management, and MSA shut down our operation the following year."

Early games were simply packaged as photocopied manuals in Ziploc bags, but the packaging became more professional as the company grew. David Mullich: "During Edu-Ware's first year of operation, in 1979, it packaged all of its products using zip-lock bags containing diskettes with computer-printed mailing labels and photocopied documentation -- blue for the educational products, and goldenrod for the entertainment products. The following year, the packaging became a little more sophisticated. The products were shrink-wrapped using a card stock cover -- with a photograph of a two-dimensional plastic head for the educational products, and one of the
word "if" (for "interactive fantasies") for the entertainment products. "The Prisoner" was published using both versions of the packaging (I still have tucked away in a filing cabinet the first copy of "The Prisoner" to roll off the production line -- serial number 1001.)

Beginning with "Empire I: World Builders" in 1981, Edu-Ware transitioned to box packaging for all its products. "Empire I" featured a blue box with a grayscale illustration on its cover, "Empire II" had a much more colorful box incorporating photographic elements, and "Empire III" came in a box from MSA's Peachtree Software division, which was then marketing the Edu-Ware product line in its final year of operation. "Prisoner 2", which came out in 1982, featured a full-color box with photographic elements. Edu-Ware president Steven Pederson appears as "the prisoner" on the box's cover."

The Prisoner

Prisoner 2 design document

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