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Background Information

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North American Flyer
Developer(s) Namco
Publisher(s) Namco Midway
Designer(s) Tōru Iwatani
Programmer(s) Shigeo Funaki (舟木茂雄)
Composer(s) Toshio Kai (甲斐敏夫)
Platform(s) Arcade, Various
Release date(s)
  • JP May 22, 1980 (1980-05-22)
  • NA October 1980
Genre(s) Maze
Mode(s) Up to two players, alternating turns
Cabinet Standard upright, mini-upright and cocktail
Arcade system Namco Pac-Man
CPU 1x ZiLOG Z80 @ 3.072 MHz
Sound 1× Namco WSG (3-channel mono) @ 3.072  MHz
Display Vertically oriented, 224 × 288, 16 palette colors

Pac-Man (パックマン Pakkuman) is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway, in October 1980 and first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is considered one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of 1980s popular culture. Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, Pac-Man derivatives—became a social phenomenon that sold a bevy of merchandise and also inspired, among other things, an animated television series and a top-ten hit single.

When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters, in particular Space Invaders and Asteroids. The most visible minority were sports games that were mostly derivatives of Pong. Pac-Man succeeded by creating a new genre and appealing to both genders. Pac-Man is often credited with being a landmark in video game history, and is among the most famous arcade games of all time. It is also one of the highest-grossing video games of all time, having generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.

The character has appeared in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs, as well as in numerous unauthorized clones and bootlegs. According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them. Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games. It is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and of New York's Museum of Modern Art.


The player controls Pac-Man through a maze, eating pac-dots or pellets. When all pac-dots are eaten, Pac-Man is taken to the next stage. Between some stages one of three intermission animations plays. Four enemies (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde) roam the maze, trying to catch Pac-Man. If an enemy touches Pac-Man, a life is lost. When all lives have been lost, the game ends. Pac-Man is awarded a single bonus life at 10,000 points by default— DIP switches inside the machine can change the required points or disable the bonus life altogether. Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the enemies. The enemies turn deep blue, reverse direction and usually move more slowly. When an enemy is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the center box where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue enemies flash white to signal that they are about to become dangerous again and the length of time for which the enemies remain vulnerable varies from one stage to the next, generally becoming shorter as the game progresses. In later stages, the enemies go straight to flashing, bypassing blue, which means that they can only be eaten for a short amount of time, although they still reverse direction when a power pellet is eaten; in even later stages, the ghosts do not become edible (i.e., they do not change colour and still make Pacman lose a life on contact), but they still reverse direction.


The enemies in Pac-Man are known variously as "ghosts," "goblins," "octopi" and "monsters". Despite the seemingly random nature of the enemies, their movements are strictly deterministic, which players have used to their advantage. In an interview, creator Toru Iwatani stated that he had designed each enemy with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play. More recently, Iwatani described the enemy behaviors in more detail at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. He stated that the red enemy chases Pac-Man, and the pink and blue enemies try to position themselves in front of Pac-Man's mouth. Although he claimed that the orange enemy's behaviour is random, a careful analysis of the game's code reveals that it actually chases Pac-Man most of the time, but also moves toward the lower-left corner of the maze when it gets too close to Pac-Man.

Enemy Colour Original Puck Man American Pac-Man
Character (Personality) Translation Nickname Translation Alternate
Character (Personality) Nickname
Red Oikake (追いかけ) chaser Akabei (赤ベイ) red guy Urchin Macky Shadow Blinky
Pink Machibuse (待ち伏せ) ambusher Pinky (ピンキー) pink guy Romp Micky Speedy Pinky
Cyan Kimagure (気まぐれ) fickle Aosuke (青助) blue guy Stylist Mucky Bashful Inky
Orange Otoboke (お惚け) stupid Guzuta (愚図た) slow guy Crybaby Mocky Pokey Clyde


Pac-Man was designed to have no ending – as long as the player keeps at least one life, he or she should be able to play the game indefinitely. However, a bug keeps this from happening: Normally, no more than seven fruit are displayed at the bottom of the screen at any given time. But when the internal level counter, which is stored in a single byte (8 bits), reaches 255, the subroutine that draws the fruit erroneously " rolls over" this number to zero, causing it to try to draw 256 fruit instead of the usual seven. This corrupts the bottom of the screen and the entire right half of the maze with seemingly random symbols, making it impossible to eat enough dots to beat the level. Because this effectively ends the game, this "split-screen" level is often referred to as the " kill screen". Emulators and code analysis have revealed what would happen should this 255th level be cleared: The fruit and intermissions would restart at level 1 conditions, but the enemies would retain their higher speed and invulnerability to power pellets from the higher stages.

Perfect play

A perfect Pac-Man game occurs when the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 255 levels (by eating every possible dot, power pellet, fruit, and enemy) without losing a single life, and then scoring as many points as possible in the last level. As verified by the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard on July 3, 1999, the first person to achieve this maximum possible score (3,333,360 points) was Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida, who performed the feat in about six hours.

In September 2009, David Race of Beavercreek, Ohio, became the sixth person to achieve a perfect score. His time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, and 22 seconds set a new record for the fastest time to obtain a perfect score.

In December 1982, an 8-year-old boy, Jeffrey R. Yee, supposedly 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 the unbeatable Split-Screen Level. 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 claimed they could get through the Split-Screen Level. No video game player could demonstrate this ability. In 1999, Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could pass through the Split-Screen Level before January 1, 2000. The prize was never claimed.


The North American Pac-Man cabinet design (left) differs significantly from the Japanese Puck Man design (right).

The game was developed primarily by a young Namco employee named Tōru Iwatani over the course of a year, beginning in April 1979, employing a nine-man team. It was based on the concept of eating, and the original Japanese title was Pakkuman (パックマン), inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic slang phrase paku-paku taberu (パクパク食べる), where paku-paku describes (the sound of) the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession.

Although Iwatani has repeatedly stated that the character's shape was inspired by a pizza missing a slice, he admitted in a 1986 interview that this was a half-truth and the character design also came from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi (). Iwatani attempted to appeal to a wider audience—beyond the typical demographics of young boys and teenagers. This led him to add elements of a maze, as well as cute ghost enemy characters. Eating to gain power, Iwatani has said, was a concept he borrowed from Popeye. The result was a game he named Puck Man as a reference to the main character's hockey puck shape.

Later in 1980, the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States by Bally division Midway, which changed the game's name from Puck Man to Pac-Man in an effort to avoid vandalism from people changing the letter 'P' into an 'F' to form a common expletive. The cabinet artwork was also changed and the pace and level of difficulty increased to appeal to western audiences.

Impact and legacy

When first launched in Japan by Namco in 1980, the game received a lukewarm response, as Space Invaders and other similar games were more popular at the time. However, the game found far more success in North America. Pac-Man's success in North America took competitors and distributors completely by surprise in 1980. Marketing executives who saw Pac-Man at a trade show prior to release completely overlooked the game (along with the now classic Defender), while they looked to a racing car game called Rally-X as the game to outdo that year. The appeal of Pac-Man was such that the game caught on immediately with the public; it quickly became far more popular than anything seen in the game industry up to that point. Pac-Man outstripped Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game in North America, grossing over $1 billion in quarters within a year, by the end of 1980, surpassing the revenues grossed by the highest-grossing film Star Wars. It sold more than 350,000 arcade cabinets (retailing at around $2400 each) for $1 billion within 18 months (inflation adjusted: $2.4 billion in 2011). By 1982, the game had sold 400,000 arcade machines worldwide and an estimated 7 billion coins had been inserted into Pac-Man machines. In addition, United States revenues from Pac-Man licensed products (games, T-shirts, pop songs, wastepaper baskets, etc.) exceeded $1 billion (inflation adjusted: $2.33 billion in 2011). The game was also estimated to have had 30 million active players across the United States in 1982. Towards the end of the 20th century, the game's total gross in quarters had been estimated by Twin Galaxies at more than 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion), making it the highest-grossing video game of all time. In January 1982, the game won the overall Best Commercial Arcade Game award at the 1981 Arcade Awards. In 2001, it was voted the greatest video game of all time by a Dixons poll in the UK.

The game is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time, for a number of reasons: its titular 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 opened gaming to female audiences, and it was gaming's first licensing success. In addition, it was the first video game to feature power-ups, and it is frequently credited as the first game to feature cut scenes, in the form of brief comical interludes about Pac-Man and the ghosts chasing each other around during those interludes, though Space Invaders Part II employed a similar technique that same year. Pac-Man is also credited for laying the foundations for the stealth game genre, as it emphasized avoiding enemies rather than fighting them, and had an influence on the early stealth game Metal Gear, where guards chase Solid Snake in a similar manner to Pac-Man when he is spotted. Pac-Man has also influenced many other games, ranging from the sandbox game Grand Theft Auto (where the player runs over pedestrians and gets chased by police in a similar manner) to early first-person shooters such as MIDI Maze (which had similar maze-based gameplay and character designs). Game designer John Romero credited Pac-Man as the game that had the biggest influence on his career; Wolfenstein 3D was similar in level design and featured a Pac-Man level from a first-person perspective, while Doom had a similar emphasis on mazes, power-ups, killing monsters, and reaching the next level.

Remakes and sequels

Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently published for over three decades, having been remade on numerous platforms and spawned many sequels. Re-releases include ported and updated versions of the original arcade game. Numerous unauthorized Pac-Man clones appeared soon after its release. The combined sales of counterfeit arcade machines sold nearly as many units as the original Pac-Man, which had sold more than 300,000 machines.

The Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man only somewhat resembled the original and had the ghosts take turns appearing on the screen, creating a flicker effect that was widely criticized.

One of the first ports to be released was the much-maligned port for the Atari 2600, which only somewhat resembled the original and was widely criticized for its flickering ghosts, due to the 2600's limited memory and hardware compared to the arcade machine. Despite the criticism, this version of Pac-Man sold seven million units at $37.95 per copy, making it the best-selling home video game to date and the best-selling game of all time on the Atari 2600 console. While enjoying initial sales success, Atari had overestimated demand by producing 12 million cartridges, of which 5 million went unsold. The port's poor quality damaged the company's reputation among consumers and retailers, which would eventually become one of the contributing factors to Atari's decline and the North American video game crash of 1983, alongside Atari's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Meanwhile, Coleco's tabletop Mini-Arcade versions of the game sold 1.5 million units in 1982.

The game was also released for the Apple II series, Atari's 5200 and 8-bit computers, IBM Personal Computer, Intellivision, the Commodore 64 and VIC-20, and the Nintendo Entertainment System. In December 1987, Mindscape's PC game version of Pac-Man sold over 100,000 copies for that month alone. For handheld game consoles, it was released on the Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, Game Boy Colour, and the Neo Geo Pocket Colour.

The game has also been featured in Namco's long-running Namco Museum video game compilations. Downloads of the game have been made available on game services such as Xbox Live Arcade, GameTap and Virtual Console. Namco has also released mobile versions for BREW, Java, and iOS, as well as Palm PDAs and Windows Mobile-based devices. A port of Pac-Man for Android can be controlled not only through an Android phone's trackball but through touch gestures or its on-board accelerometer. As of 2010, Namco had sold over 30 million paid downloads of Pac-Man on BREW in the United States alone.

In addition, 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.

Namco Networks ported Pac-Man to the PC (bought online) in 2009 which also includes an "Enhanced" mode which replaces all of the original sprites with the sprites from Pac-Man Championship Edition but it's still the original Pac-Man otherwise, Namco Networks also made a bundle (also bought online) which includes their PC version of Pac-Man as well as their port of Dig Dug called Namco All-Stars: Pac-Man and Dig Dug.

In 2010 Namco Bandai has announced that they are releasing this game on Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live game.

Pac-Man's spawned sequels and spin-offs includes only one which was designed by Tōru Iwatani . Some of the follow-ups were not developed by Namco either – including the most significant, 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. The game features several changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. Some consider Ms. Pac-Man to be superior to the original or even the best in the entire series. Stan Jarocki of Midway stated that Ms. Pac-Man was conceived in response to the original Pac-Man being "the first commercial videogame to involve large numbers of women as players" and that it is "our way of thanking all those lady arcaders who have played and enjoyed Pac-Man." Namco sued Midway for exceeding their license. Eventually, Bally Midway struck a deal with Namco to officially license Ms. Pac-Man as a sequel. Namco today officially owns Ms. Pac-Man in its other releces.

Following Ms. Pac-Man, 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.

Various platform games based on the series have also been released by Namco, such as 1984's Pac-Land and the Pac-Man World series, which features Pac-Man in a 3-D world. More modern versions of the original game have also been developed, such as the multiplayer Pac-Man Vs. for the Nintendo GameCube and Tōru Iwatani-developed Pac-Man Championship Edition and its sequel.

For the weekend of May 21–23, 2010, Google changed the Google logo on its homepage to a Google Doodle of a fully playable version of the game in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the game's release. The game featured the ability to play both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man simultaneously. After finishing the game, the website automatically redirected the user to a search of Pac-Man 30th Anniversary. Companies across the world experienced slight drops in productivity due to the game, estimated to be valued at the time as $120,000,000 (approximately €95,400,000; £83,000,000). However, The Official ASTD Blog noted that the total loss, "spread out across the entire world isn't a huge loss, comparatively speaking". In total, the game devoured around 4.8 million hours of work productivity that day. Some organizations even temporarily blocked Google's website from workplace computers on the Friday it was uploaded, particularly where it violated regulations against recreational games. Because of the popularity of the Pac-Man doodle, Google decided to allow access to the game through a separate web page.

In 2011, Namco sent a DMCA notice to the team that made the programming language Scratch saying that a programmer had infringed copyright by making a Pac-Man game using the language and uploading it to Scratch's official website.

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.

In popular culture

Pac-Man went on to become an icon of video game culture during the 1980s, and a wide variety of Pac-Man merchandise was marketed with the character's image, from t-shirts and toys to hand-held video game imitations and even specially shaped pasta. An animated TV series produced by Hanna–Barbera aired on ABC from 1982 to 1983. The Killer List of Videogames lists Pac-Man as the No. 1 video game on its "Top 10 Most Popular Video games" list. At one time, a feature film based on the game was also in development. In 2010, a computer-generated animated series titled Pac-Man: The Adventure Begins, was reported to be in the works. Pac-Man has also been referenced in the 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, where the game's origins as Puck-Man is mentioned several times. Clyde appears in the Disney animated film Wreck-It Ralph as one of several villains participating in a group therapy session, voiced by Kevin Deters. His cohorts, Inky, Blinky, and Pinky, appear together in Game Central Station for a few scenes, and Pac-Man makes a cameo appearance during the Fix-It Felix Jr. 30th Anniversary party.

Guinness World Records has awarded the Pac-Man series eight records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, including First Perfect Pac-Man Game for Billy Mitchell's July 3, 1999 score and "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 world wide: 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.

Pac-Man has been referenced in numerous other media. 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 with over a million records sold by 1982, and a total of 2.5 million copies sold as of 2008. Their Pac-Man Fever album (1982) also received a Gold certification for selling over a million records. "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a song titled "Pac-Man" that was a parody of The Beatles' " Taxman", in 1981. Jonzun Crew's "Pack Jam" (1983) was inspired by Michael Jonzun's distaste towards the popular Pac-Man game. Hip hop emcee Lil' Flip sampled sounds from the game Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man to make his top-20 single " Game Over" (2004). Namco America filed a lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment for unauthorized use of these samples. The suit was eventually settled out of court. Aphex Twin released an EP dedicated to the game, Pac-Man EP, in 1992.

Ken Uston's strategy guide Mastering Pac-Man sold 750,000 copies, reaching No. 5 on B. Dalton's mass-market bestseller list. By 1983, 1.7 million copies of Mastering Pac-Man had been printed. In comedy there is a popular Pac-Man joke on the controversy regarding the influence of video games on children.

The game has also inspired various real-life recreations, involving either real people or robots. One event called Pac-Manhattan set a Guinness World Record for "Largest Pac-Man Game" in 2004. The term Pac-Man defense in mergers and acquisitions refers to a hostile takeover target that attempts to reverse the situation and take over its would-be acquirer instead, a reference to Pac-Man's power pellets. The game's popularity has led to "Pac-Man" being adopted as a nickname, most notably by boxer Manny Pacquiao, as well as the American football player Adam Jones.

Pac-Man has also found its position beyond the game world. Under a National Science Foundation funded project, the computer science department at UC Berkeley has developed a custom version of the Pac-Man in Python to teach students basic Artificial Intelligence concepts, such as informed state-space search, probabilistic inference, and reinforcement learning. Students are asked to complete a series of problems from simple to difficult, to eventually design a Pac-Man agent that automatically eats all the beans on the map. The concepts learned during these problems underly many real-world AI application areas, such as natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics.

In January of 2013, Pac-Man and Blinky appeared on the top Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Great Dome as part of a traditional hack or prank used to demonstrate the technical aptitude and cleverness of the students. According to the MIT alumni blog, Slice of MIT, the Pac-Man, Blinky battle was intended to serve as a metaphor for the semester. "Pac-Man represents the unquenchable search for knowledge, while Blinky represents the unforeseen distractions that may occur.”

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