It isn’t often we discuss game releases here in the blog, however, Pac-Man is no ordinary game release.
Originally released in Japan on May 10, 1980, Pac-Man was the brain child of Namco’s Toru Iwatani. He, along with a meager team of six would create what would become one of the most influential video games in history. The early success of Pac-Man was enough to interest arcade-game manufacturer Midway who purchased the rights to release the game in the United States later that year. Pac-Man would go on to generate over a billion dollars in revenue in the first year alone.
What set Pac-Man apart from other video games, however, was its ability to reach across gender lines. At the time, video game arcades were popping up in nearly every downtown district. On the shoulders of Asteroids, Space Invaders, Galaxian, and Defender, arcades were thriving due to the a steady stream of male gamers eager to do battle in outer space.
Females, however, were less than interested in such violent game play.
Iwatani recognized this split in demographics and felt a cute character traversing a maze and eating, rather than destroying, would appeal more to the female audience. In fact, Iwatani, has clearly stated his inspiration for the game was based primarily on his personal observations of the state of the gaming world:
The whole thing actually started with me walking around games arcades watching how many boys were playing and the fact that all the machines were about killing aliens, tanks or people. Girls were simply not interested, and I suddenly had a motivation for my work: I wanted game centers to shed this rather dark, sinister image, and it seemed to me that the way to raise the atmosphere of a place is to entice girls to come in.
The whole purpose of Pac-Man was to target women and couples, and get a different type of player involved.
As for the actual Pac-Man character, popular legend has it Toru gained his inspiration for the dot gobbling character when he looked down at his pizza which had one slice removed. While this may have been the initial eureka moment, it turns out the shape of Pac-Man is rooted more in Japanese language than pizza:
In Japanese the character for mouth (kuchi) is a square shape. It’s not circular like the pizza, but I decided to round it out. There was the temptation to make the Pac-Man shape less simple. While I was designing this game, someone suggested we add eyes. But we eventually discarded that idea because once we added eyes, we would want to add glasses and maybe a mustache. There would just be no end to it. Food is the other part of the basic concept.
In my initial design I had put the player in the midst of food all over the screen. As I thought about it I realized the player wouldn’t know exactly what to do: the purpose of the game would be obscure. So I created a maze and put the food in it. Then whoever played the game would have some structure by moving through the maze.
The Japanese have a slang word – paku paku – they use to describe the motion of the mouth opening and closing while one eats. The name Pac-Man came from that word.
Pac-Man went on to be the most successful video arcade game in history (Guinness Book of World Records has dubbed it the "most successful coin-operated game" in history) spawning at least the following game sequels:
- Ms. Pac-Man
- Super Pac-Man
- Pac-Man Plus
- Baby Pac-Man
- Professor Pac-Man
- Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
- Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness
- Pac-Man Championship Edition
Now is your chance to relive one of the world’s classic games! Download Pac-Man today from Big Fish Games!