Atari’s Pac-Man

Atari Pacman box art
Atari Pacman box art

On May 22, 1980 Pac-Man was released in the arcades of Japan where surprising enough it did not garner a warm reception. At the time more action oriented shooters such as Space Invaders were the games of choice, but when the game made its way to the states it became a monster hit and a worldwide icon.

Created by Namco the original title was Puck Man, however, the name was changed because it was felt ill-mannered children (and adults) would change the “P” to an “F” and we all know what that spells. In addition the artwork and cabinet design was changed to fit a style that could be sold to the masses.

Pac-Man’s success came from the fact that it was different than a shooter. It appealed not only to a wide age group, but made the jump to female gamers, something even the great Space Invaders could not do. Though the challenge of eating all the dots on a small maze seemed simple enough most players never made it past level 20. In fact there are 255 levels in the game and only a few have seen the 256th kill screen.

Pac-Man was ported to pretty much every computer and console system of the time and many copies, unauthorized squeals and bootlegs have been made for it. Pac-Man also made its way into merchandising, food and even its own cartoon. Pac-Man is truly one of the most famous video games on the planet.

The story of the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man was that it was developed by Todd Frye and released in 1982. The game sold over 7 million copies though over 12 million were manufactured. The port was criticized for not staying true to the arcade from the graphics to even the sound of Pac-Man munching away on dots. Critics and fans alike felt the game was rushed and poorly developed with many asking for refunds for their purchase. In the end Atari took a huge financial hit on Pac-Man second only to the disastrous E.T. Many believe this failure coupled with E.T.’s lead to the downfall of Atari and the video game crash of 1983.