PacMan is the face of a generation, not to mention the most identifiable video game character of all time. That’s right, move over Mario and Sonic, because PacMan was there long before and will be around long after the trends of the later years in gaming.
In fact, the lovable pixelated creature is celebrating over 40 years of gaming. PacMan’s 30th anniversary was way back in 2010, and it was a momentous occasion with fanfare and celebration as one might imagine. But before we dive deeper into that era, let’s take a look at the long history of the arcade game overall. Here’s PacMan like you’ve never seen him before.
Here’s a lesser-known fact: PacMan was first called “Puck Man”. In Japan, the word “paku” means to eat something, so of course the character we all know and love today was decidedly called Puck Man. However, when being released in North America, the name was changed to PacMan because it sounded better (and less like a swear word.)
Toru Iwatani was the original creator of the well-known character and his original goal for the game may not be quite what you expected. He felt that the video game market at the time was way too violent and only targeted men because most games during this era involved violence and shooting. Instead, he opted to create something more cheerful and authentic that women could enjoy as well as men.
PacMan was released for the first time in 1980, and at the time there was a very specific type of game that was successful. Therefore, no one could have guessed that PacMan would take off as it did. Video games were still incredibly new, but the formula was already apparent: make a game where you shoot things. That was the main way one could be successful in the industry at the time. Until a certain hungry yellow character came along.
The Success of PacMan
Surprisingly enough, PacMan was not initially successful in America. Yeah, the game was released in the US after a massively successful launch in Japan. In its beginning in America, it only did alright. However, that changed almost overnight.
Eventually, the game grew more and more in popularity, more so back in Japan. The original PacMan soon became the highest-grossing arcade game of the year (1980), in its home country, taking the spot from Space Invaders.
Upon its release in the US, the game was earning around $8.1 million across arcades everywhere. Some arcades would buy entire rows of the game to hop onto the new trend. Within its first year, over 100,000 arcade units were sold. This success grossed over $1 billion in quarters. The game quickly took off and became the commercial success we’ve come to know. Today, PacMan’s company is said to be worth billions and billions of dollars, making it one of the most successful video games of all time.
PacMan’s 30th Anniversary
Since its release in 1980, PacMan has become a pop culture icon, with new games, tv shows, movies and merchandise racking up billions. So, naturally, when it was PacMan’s 30th anniversary, it was a huge deal.
For the big anniversary, the original game was re-released with updated graphics, sound and new playable characters. The revamped version, called PacMan 30th Anniversary, is free to play online. As another way to celebrate, Google created an interactive Google Doodle launching on its anniversary date of May 22nd, 2010.
The game created for the anniversary has over 200 levels and eight different worlds for players to explore. It was a release both for fans of the original game and to bring PacMan back into the spotlight. And that it did
Today, PacMan is over 40 years old and will be celebrating its 43rd birthday this year (2023). These days, he’s still enjoying his success overall with millions of players still playing the game on various platforms today. After its initial success, the game eventually went on to become one of the longest-running video game franchises ever.
Things You Didn’t Know About PacMan
If you’re a huge PacMan fan, there still might be a few things you didn’t know about the original game since there’s so much to know. That’s why today, we’ll be deep diving into some lesser-known facts about the game. Onto some facts that you might not have known about PacMan.
If you’ve ever wondered what PacMan is supposed to be, this is for you. There are actually two different motives behind the design of the character: his creator, Toru Iwatani said that he was inspired by the look of a pizza with a slice taken out of it when creating the character, but he also said that his inspiration derived from the Japanese character for a mouth, kuchi 口.
He decided to round out the character and remove a slice from it (much like a pizza) to create the character we all love to this day.
What is He Eating?
The main focus of PacMan is to eat those tiny pellets and avoid the ghosts, right? But what are those little pellets exactly? Why does he find them so irresistible?
Originally, the pellets were supposed to be little cookies. However, they were changed to little dots and the “power cookies” were introduced (larger items he used to eat the ghosts). So, really, the dots are nothing special.
Since the game originated in Japan but eventually was released in America, the little ghosts PacMan is running from have both American and Japanese names. The Japanese names of the ghosts originally were Fickle, Chaser, Ambusher and Stupid. But once released in the US, they were changed to Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde.
Overall, PacMan is a cultural icon whom we’ve all come to know one way or another. Whether you first heard of him in the arcades of the 1980s or are part of the younger generation who discovered him on the internet, we can all recognize
PacMan is beloved by everyone, and that’s exactly why his 30th anniversary was so special. But it doesn’t have to be his anniversary for people to talk about the iconic game. Today and every day, PacMan is relevant in the discussion of video game history, and pop culture in the 80s overall.