Advertisement
Features

22 May 1980: Pac-Man hits the arcades

It didn't take long for Pac-Man, or Puck Man as it was originally called in Japan, to become a worldwide craze after it was released, on this day in 1980.

15-5-21-Pac-Man-634
Pac-Man soon turned into a craze

In the late 1970s the growing popularity of video gaming saw arcades stuffed with coin-operated machines springing up across the globe. Namco's Pac-Man was one of the most popular and successful games of the era. It had a design inspired by both the shape of a pizza missing a slice and the Japanese symbol for mouth and was developed by Toru Iwatani, a games designer at the Japanese company Namco.

Advertisement - Article continues below

In May 1980 it was released in Japan as Puck Man. It was relatively unsuccessful in its home market. But when Midway Games released an American version (retitled Pac-Man to stop people defacing the machine) in October 1980, it proved a massive hit. Its addictively simple design focused on a yellow character that ate dots and tried to avoid four ghosts (nicknamed "Clyde", "Inky", "Blinky" and "Pinky").

Within 18 months Midway had sold 350,000 cabinets at around $2,400 each ($6,900 at today's prices). It was also lucrative for the arcades who bought it the machines took an estimated $2.5bn in total revenue in their first decade, which would have been even higher had it not been for the huge number of clone and outright fake machines.

One estimate suggests that as many counterfeit machines were sold as legitimate ones. As video gaming evolved, versions of Pac-Man for home consoles sold millions of copies. There was even a hit single, Pac-Man Fever, inspired by the craze.

In 2010 a "Google Doodle" with a playable version of Pac-Man caused an estimated $120m drop in global productivity as a result of time wasted. However, as an employee, Iwatani didn't benefit directly from his hit although he eventually became a senior Namco executive.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
The MoneyWeek Podcast: house prices, staycations, and the death of cash
House prices

The MoneyWeek Podcast: house prices, staycations, and the death of cash

John and Merryn talk about the rise in UK house prices and the fact that everybody is holidaying in the UK, plus gold's new highs, the death of cash, …
12 Aug 2020
If companies have too much power, we need more competition, not higher taxes
US Economy

If companies have too much power, we need more competition, not higher taxes

Free-market capitalism is breaking down and that is going to lead to higher taxes down the line. John Stepek explains why that matters for investors.
11 Aug 2020
11 August 1942: Screen goddess Hedy Lamarr invents Wi-Fi
This day in history

11 August 1942: Screen goddess Hedy Lamarr invents Wi-Fi

Hollywood starlet Hedy Lamarr received a patent in 1942 for her 'frequency hopping communication system' - the basis of much of today's wireless techn…
11 Aug 2020

Most Popular

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag
Toys and gadgets

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag

Jaguar’s classic E-type sports car has been reinvented for the modern age. The result – the Eagle Lightweight GT – is a thing of beauty.
7 Aug 2020
Should you take advantage of the UK’s new breed of domestic holidaymakers?
Buy to let

Should you take advantage of the UK’s new breed of domestic holidaymakers?

With Britons choosing to holiday in the UK this year, the owners of the country’s holiday cottages are cleaning up. Should you buy in, too? Merryn? So…
10 Aug 2020
The pound has been trending higher against the dollar – will it last?
Sponsored

The pound has been trending higher against the dollar – will it last?

Sterling has been rising against the dollar. Dominic Frisby sets his trend lines in the charts to see where the pound is heading next.
10 Aug 2020