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.

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J.A. Laraque

J.A. Laraque is a freelance writer and novelist. His passion for writing mixed with a comedic style and intelligent commentary has brought him success in his various endeavors. Whatever the subject, J.A. has an opinion on it and will present it in writing with an insight and flair that is both refreshing and informative.