Pac-Man is a maze arcade game developed and released by Namco in 1980. The original Japanese title of Puck Man was changed to Pac-Man for international releases as a preventative measure against defacement of the arcade machines by changing the P to an F. Outside Japan, the game was published by Midway Games as part of its licensing agreement with Namco America. The player controls Pac-Man, who must eat all the dots inside an enclosed maze while avoiding four colored ghosts. Eating large flashing dots called power pellets causes the ghosts to turn blue, allowing Pac-Man to eat them for bonus points.
The development of the game began in early 1979, directed by Toru Iwatani with a nine-man team. Iwatani wanted to create a game that could appeal to women as well as men, because most video games of the time have themes of war or sports. Although the inspiration for the Pac-Man character was, reportedly, the image of a pizza with a slice removed, Iwatani has said he also rounded out the Japanese symbol "kuchi", meaning "mouth". The in-game characters were made to be cute and colorful to appeal to younger players. The original Japanese title of Puckman was derived from the titular character's hockey-puck shape.
Pac-Man was a widespread critical and commercial success, and has an enduring commercial and cultural legacy. The game is important and influential, and it is commonly listed as one of the greatest video games of all time. The success of the game led to several sequels, merchandise, and two television series, as well as a hit single by Buckner and Garcia. The Pac-Man video game franchise remains one of the highest-grossing and best-selling game series of all time, generating more than $14 billion in revenue (as of 2016[update]) and $43 million in sales combined. The character of Pac-Man is the mascot and flagship icon of Bandai Namco Entertainment and has the highest brand awareness of any video game character in North America.
Pac-Man is a maze chase video game. The player controls the titular character through an enclosed maze; the objective of the game is to eat all of the dots placed in the maze while avoiding four colored ghosts — Blinky (red), Pinky (pink), Inky (cyan), and Clyde (orange) — that pursue him. When all of the dots are eaten, the player advances to the next level. If Pac-Man makes contact with a ghost, he will lose a life; the game ends when all lives are lost. Each of the four ghosts have their own unique, distinct artificial intelligence (A.I.), or "personalities"; Blinky gives direct chase to Pac-Man, Pinky and Inky try to position themselves in front of Pac-Man, usually by cornering him, and Clyde will switch between chasing Pac-Man and fleeing from him.
Placed at the four corners of the maze are large flashing "energizers", or "power pellets". Eating these will cause the ghosts to turn blue with a dizzied expression and reverse direction. Pac-Man can eat blue ghosts for bonus points; when eaten, their eyes make their way back to the center box in the maze. Eating multiple blue ghosts in succession increases their point value. Blue-colored ghosts will flash white when they are about to turn back into their normal, lethal form. Eating a certain number of dots in a level will cause a bonus item, usually in the form of a fruit, to appear underneath the regeneration box, which can be eaten for bonus points.
The game increases in difficulty as the player progresses; the ghosts become faster and the power pellets decrease in length, to the point where the ghosts will no longer turn blue and edible. To the sides of the maze are two large "warp tunnels", which allow Pac-Man and the ghosts to travel to the opposite side of the screen. Ghosts become slower when entering and exiting these tunnels. Levels are indicated by the fruit icon at the bottom of the screen. In-between levels are short cutscenes featuring Pac-Man and Blinky in humorous, comical situations. The game becomes unplayable at the 256th level due to an integer overflow that affects the game's memory, rendering this level unbeatable.
After acquiring the struggling Japanese division of Atari in 1976, video game developer Namco had begun producing their own video games in-house, as opposed to simply licensing them from other developers and distributing them in Japan. Company president Masaya Nakamura created a small video game development group within the company and ordered them to study several NEC-produced microcomputers to potentially create new games with. One of the first people assigned to this division was a young 24-year-old employee named Toru Iwatani. He created Namco's first video game Gee Bee in 1978, which while unsuccessful helped the company gain a stronger foothold in the quickly-growing video game industry. He also assisted in the production of two sequels, Bomb Bee and Cutie Q, both released in 1979.
The Japanese video game industry had surged in popularity with games such as Space Invaders and Breakout, which lead to the market being flooded with similar titles from other manufacturers in an attempt to cash in on the success. Iwatani felt that arcade games only appealed to men for their crude graphics and violence, and that arcades in general were seen as seedy environments. For his next project, Iwatani chose to create a non-violent, cheerful video game that appealed mostly to women, as he believed that attracting women and couples into arcades would potentially make them appear to be much-more family friendly in tone. Iwatani began thinking of things that women liked to do in their time; he decided to center his game around eating, basing this off of women liking to eat desserts and other sweets. His game was initially called Pakkuman, based on the Japanese onomatopoeia term “paku paku taberu”, referencing the mouth movement of opening and closing in succession.
The game that later became Pac-Man began development in early 1979, taking a year and five months to complete - the longest ever for a video game up to that point. Iwatani enlisted the help of nine other Namco employees to assist in production, including composer Toshio Kai and programmer Shigeo Funaki, and designer Shigeichi Ishimura. Care was taken into making the game appeal to a “non-violent” audience, particularly women, with its usage of simple gameplay and cute, attractive character designs. When the game was being developed, Namco was underway with designing Galaxian, which utilized a then-revolutionary RGB color display, allowing sprites to use several colors at once instead of utilizing colored strips of cellophane that was commonplace at the time; this technological accomplishment allowed Iwatani to greatly enhance his game with bright, pastel colors, which he felt would help attract players. The idea for power pellets was a concept Iwatani borrowed from Popeye the Sailor, a cartoon character that becomes stronger after eating a can of spinach; it is also believed that Iwatani was also partly inspired by a Japanese children's story about a creature that protected children from monsters by devouring them.
Iwatani has often claimed that the character of Pac-Man himself was designed after the shape of a pizza with a missing slice while he was at lunch; in a 1986 interview he said that this was only half-truth, and that the Pac-Man character was also based on him rounding out and simplifying the Japanese symbol “kuchi”, meaning “mouth”. The four ghosts were made to be cute, colorful and appealing, utilizing bright, pastel colors and expressive blue eyes. This idea was inspired by Iwatani's previous game Cutie Q, which featured similar ghost-like monsters, the television series Casper the Friendly Ghost, and the manga Obake no Q-Taro. Iwatani specifically chose ghosts as the antagonists due to them often being used as villains in animation. The ghosts originally were all a single-red color to make them indistinguishable from one another, which was added based on the request of Masaya Nakamura. Iwatani did not like the idea, as he felt the ghosts should have “variety” and be multicolored; he created a survey with his colleagues that had options for either single-colored enemies or multicolored enemies. No one chose the former option. Humorous intermissions between Pac-Man and the ghosts were added to keep the game's tension from lingering.
Each of the ghosts were programmed to have their own distinct personalities, so as to keep the game from becoming too boring or impossibly difficult to play. They were also named after these to provide a subtle hint for new players; the red ghost, Akabei, gave chase to the player; the pink and cyan ghosts, Pinky and Aosuke, positioned themselves in front of the player; and the orange ghost, Guzuta, alternates between chasing the player and fleeing them. The sound effects were among the last additions made to the game, created by Toshio Kai; Iwatani described to him what he wanted the eating sound specifically to sound like, done by eating fruit and making actual gurgling sounds. Upon completion, the game was titled Puck Man, based on the working title and the titular character's distinct hockey puck-like shape.
Location testing for Puck Man began on May 22, 1980 in Shibuya, Tokyo, to a relatively positive fanfare from players. A private showing for the game was done in June, followed by a nation-wide release in July. Eyeing the game's success in Japan, Namco initialized plans to bring the game to international countries, particularly the United States. Before showing the game to distributors, Namco America made a number of changes, such as altering the names of the ghosts. The biggest of these was the game's title; executives at Namco were worried that vandals would change the “P” in Puck Man to an “F”, forming an obscene name. Masaya Nakamura chose to rename it to Pac-Man, as he felt it was closer to the game's original Japanese title of Pakkuman. When Namco presented Pac-Man and Rally-X to potential distributors at the 1980 AMOU tradeshow in November, executives believed that Rally-X would be the best-selling game of that year. Midway Games agreed to take Pac-Man and Rally-X and distribute them in North America, announcing their acquisition of the manufacturing rights on November 22 and releasing it in December.
Pac-Man was ported to a plethora of home video game systems and personal computers; the most infamous of these is the 1982 Atari 2600 conversion, designed by Tod Frye and published by Atari. This version of the game was widely criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of the arcade version and for its peculiar design choices, most notably the flickering effect of the ghosts. Although the game proved to be a success initially, Atari overestimated the game's demand and produced 12 million cartridges, selling seven million and leaving five million unsold. The conversion's poor quality severely damaged the company's reputation, and lead to the company's demise and the North American video game crash of 1983. Atari also released versions for the Intellivision, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Apple II, IBM PC, Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari 8-bit family of computers. A port for the Atari 5200 was released in 1983, a version that many have seen as a significant improvement over the Atari 2600 version.
Namco themselves released a version for the Family Computer in 1984 as one of the console's first third-party titles, as well as a port for the MSX computer. The Famicom version was later released in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System by Tengen (company), a subsidiary of Atari Games. Tengen also produced an unlicensed version of the game in a black cartridge shell, released during a time where Tengen and Nintendo were in bitter disagreements over the latter's stance on quality control for their consoles; this version was later re-released by Namco as an official title in 1993, featuring a new cartridge label and box. The Famicom version was released for the Famicom Disk System in 1990 as a budget title for the Disk Writer kiosks in retail stores. The same year, Namco released a port of Pac-Man for the Game Boy, which allowed for two-player co-operative play via the Game Link Cable peripheral. A version for the Game Gear was released a year later, which also enabled support for multiplayer. In celebration of the game's 20th anniversary in 1999, Namco re-released the Game Boy version for the Game Boy Color, bundled with Pac-Attack and titled Pac-Man: Special Color Edition. The same year, Namco and SNK co-published a port for the Neo Geo Pocket Color, which came with a circular "Cross Ring" that attached to the d-pad to restrict it to four-directional movement.
In 2001, Namco released a port of Pac-Man for various Japanese mobile phones, being one of the company's very first mobile game releases. The Famicom version of the game was re-released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 as part of the Famicom Mini series, released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Famicom; this version was also released in North America and Europe under the Classic NES Series label. Namco Networks released Pac-Man for BREW mobile devices in 2005. The arcade original was released for the Xbox Live Arcade service in 2006, featuring achievements and online leaderboards. In 2009 a version for iOS devices was published; this release was later rebranded as Pac-Man + Tournaments in 2013, featuring new mazes and leaderboards. The NES version was released for the Wii Virtual Console in 2007. A Roku version was released in 2011, alongside a port of the Game Boy release for the 3DS Virtual Console. Pac-Man was one of four titles released under the Arcade Game Series brand, which was published for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in 2016.
Pac-Man was included in many Namco compilations, including Namco Museum Vol. 1 (1995), Namco Museum 64 (1996), Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (2005), Namco Museum Battle Collection (2005), Namco Museum DS (2007), Namco Museum Virtual Arcade (2008), Namco Museum Essentials (2009), and Namco Museum Megamix (2010). In 1996, it was re-released for arcades as part of Namco Classic Collection Vol. 2, alongside Dig Dug, Rally-X and special "Arrangement" remakes of all three titles. Microsoft included Pac-Man in Microsoft Return of Arcade (1996) as a way to help attract video game companies to their Windows 95 operating system. Namco released the game in the third volume of Namco History in Japan in 1998. The 2001 Game Boy Advance compilation Pac-Man Collection compiles Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, Pac-Attack and Pac-Man Arrangement onto one cartridge. Pac-Man is also a hidden extra in the arcade game Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga - Class of 1981 (2001). A similar cabinet was released in 2005 that featured Pac-Man as the central game. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures (1993) and Pac-Man World 2 (2002) have Pac-Man as an unlockable extra. Alongside the Xbox 360 sequel Pac-Man Championship Edition, it was ported to the Nintendo 3DS in 2012 as part of Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions. The 2010 Wii game Pac-Man Party and its 2011 3DS remake also include Pac-Man as a bonus game, alongside the arcade versions of Dig Dug and Galaga. In 2014, Pac-Man was included again in the compilation title Pac-Man Museum for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, alongside several other Pac-Man games. The NES version is one of 30 games included in the NES Classic Edition.
When it was first released in Japan, Pac-Man was only a modest success; Namco's own Galaxian had quickly outdone the game in popularity, due to the predominately male playerbase being familiar with its shooting gameplay as opposed to Pac-Man's cute characters and maze-chase theme. Iwatani claims that the game was very popular with women, which he had hoped to accomplish during development. By comparison, in North America, Pac-Man became a nation-wide success. Within one year, more than 100,000 arcade units had been sold which grossed more than US$1 billion in quarters. Pac-Man overtook Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game in the country, and surpassed Star Wars: A New Hope with more than US$1 billion in revenue. By 1982, it was estimated to have had 30 million active players across the United States. Some arcades purchased entire rows of Pac-Man cabinets.
The number of arcade units sold had tripled to 400,000 by 1982, receiving an estimated total of seven billion coins. Pac-Man themed merchandise sales had also exceeded US$1 billion. In a 1983 interview, Nakamura said that though he did expect Pac-Man to be successful, "I never thought it would be this big." Pac-Man is the best-selling arcade game of all time with more than US$2.5 billion in revenue, surpassing Space Invaders — in 2016, USgamer calculated that the machines' inflation-adjusted takings were equivalent to $7.68 billion.
Pac-Man was awarded "Best Commercial Arcade Game" at the 1981 Arcade Awards. II Computing listed the Atarisoft port tenth on the magazine's list of top Apple II games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data. In 2001, Pac-Man was voted the greatest video game of all time by a Dixons poll in the UK.
The game of Pac-Man is considered by many to be one of the most influential video games of all time; its title character was the first original gaming mascot, the game established the maze chase game genre, it demonstrated the potential of characters in video games, it increased the appeal of video games with female audiences, and it was gaming's first broad licensing success. It was the first video game with power-ups, and the individual ghosts have deterministic artificial intelligence (AI) that reacts to player actions. It is often cited as the first game with cutscenes (in the form of brief comical interludes about Pac-Man and Blinky chasing each other), though actually Space Invaders Part II employed a similar style of between-level intermissions in 1979.
"Maze chase" games exploded on home computers after the release of Pac-Man. Some of them appeared before official ports, and garnered more attention from consumers, and sometimes lawyers, as a result. These include Taxman (1981) and Snack Attack (1982) for the Apple II, Jawbreaker (1981) for the Atari 8-bit family, Scarfman (1981) for the TRS-80, and K.C. Munchkin! (1981) for the Odyssey². Namco themselves produced several other maze chase games, including Rally-X (1980), Dig Dug (1982), Exvania (1992), and Tinkle Pit (1994).
Pac-Man also inspired 3D variants of the concept, such as Monster Maze (1982), Spectre (1982), and early first-person shooters such as MIDI Maze (1987; which also had similar character designs). John Romero credited Pac-Man as the game that had the biggest influence on his career; Wolfenstein 3D includes a Pac-Man level from a first-person perspective. Many post-Pac-Man titles include power-ups that briefly turn the tables on the enemy. The game's artificial intelligence inspired programmers who later worked for companies like Bethesda.
Guinness World Records has awarded the Pac-Man series eight records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, including "Most Successful Coin-Operated Game". On June 3, 2010, at the NLGD Festival of Games, the game's creator Toru Iwatani officially received the certificate from Guinness World Records for Pac-Man having had the most "coin-operated arcade machines" installed worldwide: 293,822. The record was set and recognized in 2005 and mentioned in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, but finally actually awarded in 2010.
The Pac-Man character and game series became an icon of video game culture during the 1980s. A wide variety of Pac-Man merchandise has been marketed with the character's image, including t-shirts, toys, hand-held video game imitations, pasta, and cereal.
The game has inspired various real-life recreations, involving real people or robots. One event called Pac-Manhattan set a Guinness World Record for "Largest Pac-Man Game" in 2004. The business term "Pac-Man defense" in mergers and acquisitions refers to a hostile takeover target that attempts to reverse the situation and instead acquire its attempted acquirer, a reference to Pac-Man's energizers. The game's popularity has led to "Pac-Man" being adopted as a nickname, such as by boxer Manny Pacquiao and the American football player Adam Jones. The "Pac-Man renormalization" is named for a cosmetic resemblance to the character, in the mathematical study of the Mandelbrot set.
On August 21, 2016, in the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, during a video which showcases Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, a small segment shows Pac-Man and the ghosts racing and eating dots on a running track.
The Pac-Man animated TV series produced by Hanna–Barbera aired on ABC from 1982 to 1983. A computer-generated animated series titled Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures aired on Disney XD in June 2013. As of February 2019, the series was also planned to air on Universal Kids, but it was ultimately canceled due to low coverage of NBCUniversal.
In music, the Buckner & Garcia song "Pac-Man Fever" (1981) went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and received a Gold certification for more than 1 million records sold by 1982, and a total of 2.5 million copies sold as of 2008. More than one million copies of the group's Pac-Man Fever album (1982) were sold.
In 1982 "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of "Taxman" by the Beatles as "Pac-Man". It was eventually released in 2017 as part of Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of "Weird Al" Yankovic. In 1992, Aphex Twin (with the name Power-Pill) released Pac-Man, a techno album which consists mostly of samples from the game.
In 2008, a feature film based on the game was in development.
The Pac-Man character appears in the film Pixels (2015), with Denis Akiyama playing series creator Toru Iwatani. Pac-Man is referenced and makes an appearance in the 2017 film Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
In Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale where Kirito and his friends beat a virtual reality game called PAC-Man 2024. Iwatani makes a cameo at the beginning of the film as an arcade technician. In the Japanese tokusatsu film Kamen Rider Heisei Generations: Dr. Pac-Man vs. Ex-Aid & Ghost with Legend Riders, a Pac-Man-like character is the main villain.
The 2018 film Relaxer uses Pac-Man as a strong plot element in the form of a 1999 couch-bound man who attempts to beat the game (and encounters the famous Level 256 glitch) before the year 2000 problem occurs.
Other gaming media
In 1982, Milton Bradley released a board game based on Pac-Man. Players move up to four Pac-Man characters (traditional yellow plus red, green, and blue) plus two ghosts as per the throws of a pair of dice. The two ghost pieces were randomly packed with one of four colors.
Sticker manufacturer Fleer included rub-off game cards with its Pac-Man stickers. The card packages contain a Pac-Man style maze with all points along the path hidden with opaque coverings. From the starting position, the player moves around the maze while scratching off the coverings to score points.
Pac-Man is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. The 3DS version has a stage based on the original arcade game, called Pac-Maze. Nintendo released an Amiibo figurine of Pac-Man. Pac-Man is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
High score records and perfect play
A perfect Pac-Man game is when the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 255 levels by eating every possible dot, energizer, fruit, and enemy, without losing a single life, and using all extra lives to score as many points as possible on level 256.
The first person credited with achieving this score (3,333,360 points) was Esports player Billy Mitchell, who claimed to perform the feat in about six hours in 1999. However, in April 2018, video game ranker Twin Galaxies removed all of Mitchell's scores from its database after ruling certain Donkey Kong submissions had not been achieved using authentic arcade hardware. Since Mitchell's Pac-Man achievement, as of 2019[update], 7 other players have attained the maximum score on an original arcade unit. The world record, according to Twin Galaxies, is currently held by David Race, with the fastest completion time of 3 hours, 28 minutes, and 49 seconds for the maximum possible score of 3,333,360 points.
Historically, in December 1982, an eight-year-old boy, Jeffrey R. Yee, received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if he had passed level 256. In September 1983, Walter Day, chief scorekeeper at Twin Galaxies, took the US National Video Game Team on a tour of the East Coast to visit video game players who said they could get through level 256. No video game player could demonstrate this ability. In 1999, Billy Mitchell had offered $100,000 to anyone who could complete level 256 before January 1, 2000; the prize expired unclaimed.
Remakes and sequels
Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently published for more than three decades, having been remade on numerous platforms, and spawning many sequels. Pac-Man has been included in Namco's long-running Namco Museum compilations as well as Microsoft Return of Arcade. Downloads of the game have been made available on game services such as Xbox Live Arcade, GameTap, and Virtual Console. Namco has released mobile versions of Pac-Man for BREW, Java, and iOS, as well as Palm PDAs and Windows Mobile-based devices.
Pac-Man has numerous sequels and spin-offs, only one of which was designed by original designer Toru Iwatani. Some of the follow-ups were not developed by Namco either, including the most significant, Midway's Ms. Pac-Man, released in the United States in 1981. Originally called Crazy Otto, this unauthorized hack of Pac-Man was created by General Computer Corporation and sold to Midway without Namco's permission. Bally-Midway released several other unauthorized spin-offs, such as Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man, and Professor Pac-Man, resulting in Namco severing business relations with Midway.
Namco has repeatedly re-released the game to arcades. In 2001, Namco released a Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga "Class of 1981 Reunion Edition" cabinet with Pac-Man available for play as a hidden game. To commemorate Pac-Man's 25th anniversary in 2005, Namco released a revision that officially featured all three games.
On June 5, 2007, the first Pac-Man World Championship was held in New York City, which brought together ten competitors from eight countries to play the new Pac-Man Championship Edition developed by Toru Iwatani. Its sequel was released November 2010.
Namco Networks sold a downloadable Windows PC version of Pac-Man in 2009 which also includes an enhanced mode which replaces all of the original sprites with the sprites from Pac-Man Championship Edition. Namco Networks made a downloadable bundle which includes its PC version of Pac-Man and its port of Dig Dug called Namco All-Stars: Pac-Man and Dig Dug. In 2010, Namco Bandai announced the release of the game on Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live game.
For the weekend of May 21–23, 2010, Google changed the logo on its homepage to a playable version of the game in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the game's release. The Google Doodle version of Pac-Man was estimated to have been played by more than 1 billion people worldwide in 2010, so Google later dedicated the game its own page.
In April 2011, Soap Creative published World's Biggest Pac-Man working together with Microsoft and Namco-Bandai to celebrate Pac-Man's 30th anniversary. It is a multiplayer browser-based game with user-created, interlocking mazes.
- Trueman, Doug (November 10, 1999). "The History of Pac-Man". GameSpot. Archived from the original on June 26, 2009.Comprehensive coverage on the history of the entire series up through 1999.
- Morris, Chris (May 10, 2005). "Pac Man Turns 25". CNN Money.
- Vargas, Jose Antonio (June 22, 2005). "Still Love at First Bite: At 25, Pac-Man Remains a Hot Pursuit". The Washington Post.
- Hirschfeld, Tom. How to Master the Video Games, Bantam Books, 1981.ISBN 0-553-20164-6 Strategy guide for a variety of arcade games including Pac-Man. Includes drawings of some of the common patterns.