May 22, 2015

Happy 35th Birthday, PAC-Man

PAC-Man is 35 years old today.  This early-age video game icon has been gobbling up dots for more than 1/3 of a century.  Spawning dozens of official sequels and spin-off titles -- and hundreds of clones, copy-cats, and unofficial games -- PAC-Man has left his mark not just in the video game world, but throughout media.

"PAC-Man Fever" was one of the first --- if not the first video-game inspired songs to ever be published, and it was a chart-topping hit.  Pac-Man has had multiple TV shows, has appeared in multiple movies, has had toys, clothing lines, cereals, lunch boxes, board games.... You name it - there's a Pac-Man version of it.

From arcades, to consoles, to smartphones, to PCs --- pretty much if there's a digital device out there capable of receiving up-down-left-right input - PAC-Man has been ported to it (officially or not).  PAC-Man once even took over Google.

On this 35th Anniversary, let's look back at some of the world-record breaking milestones that PAC-Man and the whole PAC-Family have been a part of, according to Guinness World Records.

First video game family

Before the Mario Bros came along in 1983, PAC-Man had already established the first video game family. Following the breakout success of the original PAC-Man arcade game, American licensee Bally Midway released a series of unofficial spin-off games. Ms PAC-Man (released January 13, 1982) proved so successful that Namco eventually adopted it as an official release, but the same cannot be said of Baby PAC-Man (1982) and Jr. PAC-Man (October 1983), which, along with Professor PAC-Man (1983), contributed to Namco eventually severing ties with Bally Midway.

First female character in a video game

According to creator Toru Iwatani (Japan), PAC-Man (Namco, 1980) was designed to appeal primarily to women. Two years later, the addition of a hair bow and lipstick to the munching mouth turned PAC-Man into Ms. PAC-Man (Bally/Midway, 1982), the first playable female character in any video game.
Most successful coin-operated arcade machine

From its launch in 1981 until 1987, a total of 293,822 PAC-Man arcade machines were built and installed in arcade venues around the world. Designed by Tohru Iwatani (Japan) of Namco, the original game took eight people 15 months to complete. Namco estimate that PAC-Man has been played more than ten billion times since its launch.

Most viewed PAC-Man video

In April 2009, renowned French prankster Rémi Gaillard uploaded a video of himself dressed in a full-size PAC-Man costume being chased by cohorts dressed as ghosts in a supermarket, golf course and other locations. The clip is the most viewed PAC-Man video on You Tube, with 45,831,671 views as of August 18, 2014.

Largest re-enactment of PAC-Man

In 2004, students from New York University created PAC-Manhattan, a “real-life” re-enactment of the game in which people, dressed as PAC-Man and the four ghosts, chased each other around Manhattan city blocks. The playing field consisted of 6x4 city blocks surrounding Washington Square Park, with a total surface area of 171,029m².

Most costly game of PAC-Man

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the game's release, Google released a PAC-Man-inspired Google Doodle, an interactive banner using the same graphics and game play as the original arcade version. Launched on May 21, 2010, it was available for 48 hours and visitors to played for nearly 500,000,000 hours. Based on the average officer worker's salary, it's estimated to have cost businesses around $122 million in lost productivity.

Largest PAC-Man video game

Measured by its total number of pixels, the largest PAC-Man game is The World’s Biggest PAC-Man, with a total of 4,014,144,000 pixels across 62,721 mazes. The game, playable online at, went live on April 12, 2011 and was developed by Australia’s Soap Creative agency to celebrate 30 years since the original arcade release by Namco. As well as letting Facebook users play against each other, the game allows fans to design and share their own levels.

(Thanks to Mark for reminding me what today was!)

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