A pizza that looks like arcade video game character Pac-Man, 1980

A slice of gaming history

Pac-Man - The Dot Eater

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Namco/Midway 1980

Chips Off the Old Dot

Ten arcade sequels follow the original game, first of which is Ms. Pac-man, released in early 1982. Its development starts in June of 1981 as an unauthorized “mod” or modification of the original game, by a company founded by MIT students Kevin Curran and Doug Macrae called General Computer Corp. (GCC). Titled Crazy Otto, the game enhancement features a version of Pac-Man with legs being chased by monsters with feet, fruit prizes that move around the maze and a cartoon interlude where Otto and a female equivalent have a baby delivered by a stork. Having been burned previously by Atari over Super Missile Attack, GCC’s enhancement board for Missile Command, the company presents their version of Pac-Man to Midway. Conveniently, Midway is growing impatient waiting for Namco to produce a Pac-Man sequel for license. Midway thusly enters into an agreement with GCC on Oct. 29, 1981, to buy the game.  It is quickly developed further by GCC into an even more obvious attempt to lure women into the arcade than the original. Instead of one maze, Ms. Pac-Man (a version of the original Pac-Man character wearing a red bow, lipstick and a beauty mark) has four different playfields, with the special treats roaming around instead of staying motionless under the monster cage. Released in 1981, it goes on to sell 115,000 units, becoming the biggest American-made arcade hit yet. Since the game is not authorized by Namco it helps sour their relationship with Midway, which is further strained by more unauthorized sequels from Midway such as Super Pac-Man and the GCC developed Jr. Pac-Man.

GCC would bury the hatchet with Atari and later design many games for the company, as well as the 7800 ProSystem game console. As for Bally Midway, battered by the careening video game market the company loses $95 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 1984. They announce their departure from the coin-op and video game industry the following year. This division of the company would be subsequently picked up by Williams Electronics.


JUMP: Crazy Otto played at California Extreme 2012, YouTube

The other Pac-Man sequels are Pac-Man Plus (1982), Super Pac-Man (1982), Baby Pac-Man (1982), Jr. Pac-Man (1983), Pac & Pal (1983), Pac-Land, based heavily on the cartoon series (1984), Pac-Mania (1986), Pac-Attack (1993), and the brief Pac-Man VR in 1996, a virtual reality 3-D Pac-man game produced by Virtuality Ltd. and released to a few major entertainment centres. In a nice little yellow circle, Nutting Associates puts together Professor Pac-Man (1983), a quiz game based on the IP that brings the development house full circle, back to their roots as a coin-op trivia game company. The number of console, computer, and hand-held translations is too numerous to count.

Probably the biggest is Atari’s license of the game for their flagging 2600 game console in 1982. An obvious rush-job to make the deadline for Christmas that year, the translation breaks sales records but is deemed a creative disaster by critics. Ms. Pac-Man goes a long way to redeeming the 2600 with a well-done port for that console released later the same year by Atari.


Connecting the Dots

It’s pretty tough to cover all the bases when it comes to the myriad of subsequent games based on the Pac-Man IP, but here are some highlights. Thanks to the resurgent interest in classic arcade games through the besieged emulation scene, The Yellow One gets the obligatory 3D makeover in Namco’s celebration of 20 years of Pac-mania, with Pac-Man World – 20th Anniversary. The three-dimensional adventure game, complete with a 3D rendering of the original’s maze, is released for the Sony PlayStation in October 1999. This is not the first developed 3D version of Pac-Man, however. In 1997, Namco’s internal U.S. development team, under the management of Bill Anderson (Cool Spot, Sega Genesis 1993), begins work on Pac-Man: Ghost Zone. Featuring the tale of a young arcader who gets sucked into the world of Pac-Man Tron-style, the game is severely hampered by its tanky controls. While the project ends up shelved by Namco, the 3D design of the title character is entered into the official style-sheet for such renderings, leading to his look in the later 3D game.

Pac-Man World is followed by two sequels, Pac-Man World 2 in 2002 for the popular consoles of the day, and Pac-Man World 3 in 2005. The formula also gains a multiplayer aspect in 2003, with the release of Pac-Man vs. for Nintendo’s Gamecube. The game requires Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance handheld in order to play. It also requires real-life friends, as vs. is multiplayer only. The player using the GBA attached to the Gamecube has a view of the entire maze, while at least one player on the Gamecube controls a ghost, with a limited view of the maze immediately around him. If he is able to catch Pac, the pursuer becomes the persuade as the GBA is handed over to the new Pac. The game is designed by Mario and Link creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and it isn’t much of a stretch to see the whole Pac-Man vs. set-up as a trial-run for Nintendo’s Wii U console, released in 2012, complete with a large screen embedded right in the controller. In the same vein comes Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, released by Bandai Namco in October of 2013. Available for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and the PC via Steam, the game is based on the animated series premiering on the Disney XD cable channel the same year. This 3D platformer also features a 4-player split-screen multi-player mode where players take the role of the ghosts from the original game, all on the hunt for Pac. Multi-player also comes to Pac-Man on the arcade front with Pac-Man Battle Royale, put out by Bandai Namco in 2011 in two flavours: one a cocktail-type set up with four joysticks placed around the table, and an imposing deluxe version featuring four individual control podiums for players to stand at.  Both allow gamers to duke it out in the maze Pac-Head to Pac-Head, where when one gobbles a power-pellet they can consume both the enemy ghosts and their fellow Pac-People.

Ad for retro video game compilation from Namco

Ad for Namco Museum Vol. 1, 1996


As for the creator of all this yellow mania, Toru Iwatani announces his retirement from Namco and the video game industry in 2007 at the age of 52, in order to devote his full energies to teaching at the Tokyo Polytechnic Institute.  His swan song before leaving the company is Pac-Man Championship Edition, a fresh and highly-energetic take on the Pac-Man formula, first for the Xbox 360 gaming console in 2007, and later released for mobile platforms and the PlayStation 3.  Namco follows-up Iwatani’s final effort with Pac-Man Championship DX, with some extra tweaks, for the same game platforms in 2010.  They both are fitting ends to the career of the designer of one of the greatest video games of all time.  logo_stop

Sources (Click to view; inert links kept for historical purposes)

“Pac-Man: Ghost Zone.” Next Generation, Aug. 1997, pp. 82–83. “We had to put our model before Namco Limited’s staunchest critics, and the model we have now is the official 3D model for the style guide.”
Atari Coin Connection, “Atari Pursuing Copyright Infringers”, pg. 2, Sep 1981. “Recently, the General Computer Corporation of Boston received a restraining order from Judge Robert E. Keeton of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, to temporarily prevent them from manufacturing, advertising or selling “Super Missile Attack”, their product designed to “enhance” the game play on Missile Command.” Retrieved from Pinball Pirate, Atari Coin Connection archive, Sep 16 2015.
Electronic Games, “Electronic Games Hotline: Pac-Man Fever is Catching”, pg. 9, May 1982. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
Image of Crazy Otto and other associated images and information from Steve Golson’s lecture for MIT Labs, part of the “Push Button: Examining the Culture, Platforms, and Design of the Arcade” lecture series, Jan
8 2014
Image of Marty Ingels with Pac-Man, as well as other information, from Video Games, “Blips – Life in the Fast Maze with Marty Ingels”, by Sue Adamo, pgs. 10, 12, Vol. 1 Num. 5, Feb 1983
“ A Question of Character: Pac-Man.” Next Generation, Oct. 1998, p. 80. Where did the idea for Pac-Man come from? (Toru Iwatani) As I was eating pizza, I took a slice away and looked at what was left.

How did this idea evolve and change as Pac-Man developed? (Iwatani) In order to make a game that even girls who hadn’t played many arcade games could play and enjoy, I made the entire game controlled with just one joystick.
Sly | Image | BoardGameGeek – boardgamegeek.com/image/832103/sly
Reading Eagle (UPI), “Pac-Man Maker Forced To Fight Imitators”, pg. 74, Mar. 14 1982
Title screen for The Pac-Man Rubik the Amazing Cube Hour from Toonarific
Billboard, “For Cross-Merchandising, ‘Pac-Man’ Made In Heaven”, pg. 6, Apr 24 1982
Still of Rubik, the Amazing Cube from X-Entertainment
The Arcade Flyer Archive – flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=home
Neato Coolville: I’LL ALWAYS HAVE PAC-MAN FEVER – neatocoolville.blogspot.ca/2011/11/ill-always-have-pac-man-fever.html
Stanley Jarocki interview, raw footage for “Wired In”, a 1982 uncompleted technology news show, archived at Media Burn Archive – mediaburn.org/video/wired-in-raw-29/
The Pac-Man Dossier, by Jamey Pittman, 2011 – home.comcast.net/~jpittman2/pacman/pacmandossier.htmlamazon.ca, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, PS3 – www.amazon.ca/dp/B00CSLIYTI
Image from Hanna-Barbera TV show featuring Ghosts, Mezmaron and Pac-Man from Electronic Games, “Dear Pac-Man” by Gabe Essoe, pgs. 46-52, Dec 1983. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
Ahl, David H. “Industry Insider.” Creative Computing Mar. 1985: 14. Creative Computing Magazine (March 1985) Volume 11 Number 03. Internet Archive. Web. 06 Mar. 2016. After a $95 million loss in the fourth quarter, Bally (Pac-Man) is dropping out of the coin-op and
videogames business.
Images of Iwatani and his original design drawings from Control Magazine, “Prof. Toru Iwatani: ‘This is how I made Pac-Man!'”, by Matthijs Dierckx, June 22 2010 – www.controlmagazine.net/2010/06/22/prof-toru-iwatani-this-is-how-i-made-pac-man/
Video Games, “The Absolutely, Positively Last Word on Pac-Man”, an excerpt from “Video Invaders”, a book by Steve Bloom, pgs. 23 – 26, 78, Vol. 1 Num. 1, Aug 1982
Pac-Man Fever – Buckner & Garcia : AllMusic – www.allmusic.com/album/pac-man-fever-mw0000222904
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, official Bandai Namco site – www.pacisback.com/en/index.html
Video Games, “The House That Pac Built”, by Andrea Stone, pgs. 53 – 55, 72, Vol. 1 Num. 3, Dec 1982
ArtInBase – Buckner and Garcia – www.artinbase.info/artist/4733/Buckner_&_Garcia/
Schenecty Gazette (AP), “Smile! Pac-Man Moving Into Millions of Homes”, pg. 30, Mar. 17, 1982
Electronic Games, “Meet Pac-Man’s Video Godfather” by Gabe Essoe, pgs. 22-28, Jan 1984. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, Electronic Games magazine collection
Image of Pac-Man board game courtesy of A Board Game A Day: Pac-Man – aboardgameaday.blogspot.ca/2011/09/day-eleven-pac-man.html
Video Games, “Briefs – The Fight for Ms. Pac-Man”, by Steve Bloom, pg. 98, Vol. 1 Num. 5, Feb 1983
Starlog, “Toys and Games for ’82”, by Susan Adamo and Bob Greenberger, pg. 31, Jul 1982

External Links (Click to view)

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Comments >>

  1. avatarArden

    I’ve heard a lot a people say in books and in other articles that say puckman was originally released In Japan on October 10th 1979. Just about every book I read about the history of video games contradicts the may 22 1980 release for pacman. I’m still confused about the relase date.


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