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April 2015 Retro Gaming Article


April 3, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Atari declared National Pac-Man Day in 1982 to herald it's release for home consoles

Atari declared National Pac-Man Day in 1982 In an era where arcade games held a sense of futuristic entertainment, space-oriented games were very popular. Who would think that a yellow dot-eater, with cute (and cuddly) appeal, would take arcades by storm?

Originating in a Tokyo movie theater in 1980 as Puckman, he was popular overnight. The name was changed to Pac-Man to avoid a few obvious problems and off he went as Bally/Midway held the license to manufacture Pc-Man in America. They sold 100,000 arcade cabinets which set a record only to be broken by the sequel, Ms. Pac-man.

With such success, this game was destined to become a success in the home console and computer market. Atari was obviously eager to put Pac-Man on their current game system, the 2600. As the release date neared, they came up with a campaign to get the word out about Pac-Man coming to home game consoles. National Pac-Man Day was born on April 3, 1982.

With ads in the New York Times and other prominent media, the word did get out. This was before the days of Twitter and Myspace being prominent outlets for reaching a gaming demographic. Yep, there was no Facebook either. So, they did their best to create a word-f-mouth campaign - the equivalent of a "viral post" in today's digital world.

For Atari's effort, they wouldn't get the game right until it's release on their next console, the 5200. The 2600 VCS version was fairly awful. Full of flicker and mazes that did not mimic those in the beloved arcade game, it was largely panned. That isn't to say it didn't sell well. Arriving long before social media made it difficult to get timely information about video game releases. Thus, many copies were sold before everyone realized how inferior it was to the original.

National Pac-Man Day in 1982 The 2600 never got a proper version, although several homebrew hacks have cleared up the problem. Pac-Man went on to become heavily marketed and successfully so. Even today, Namco has opened a Pac-Man themed restaurant and Google Maps have added the ability to play Pac-Man in your hometown's streets!

Play Pac-Man in Google Maps

This probably warrants a separate post, but it shows how Pac-Man's recognition is still strong decades later. Google Maps (as of this writing) has placed a "Pac-Man button" in the lower corner of their map screens. Clicking it initiates a game of Pac-Man in that location's streets. Some areas don't have the proper layout and you'll be told you can't play in that location. Check it out and send Pac-Man down YOUR street!

Play Pac-Man in Google Maps Play Pac-Man in Google Maps

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