October 1980 : Halloween, Early AI & Ghosts …
AI isn’t something that’s just emerged in the last couple of years. Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde had distinct personalities and if these names sound familiar it’s because they were the four ghosts that chased Pac-Man around his maze, each with different styles of trying to catch him, a kind of ‘AI’.
Originally developed by Namco in 1979, the game went on to break multiple records, emerging as one of the most played games of all time and in the United States, the icon of Pac-Man was listed as recognisable by 94% of the population, at the time making it the most recognisable video game character ever (source : Guinness World Records) and has grossed over $14 Billion dollars.
3 Take-Aways About Being Different :
1-Different Offering. At the time, almost all of the other video games were “shoot ’em ups” and dominated by male players. The designer, Toru Iwatani, said: “All the computer games available at the time were of the violent type—war games and Space Invader types. There were no games that everyone could enjoy, and especially none for women. I wanted to come up with a ‘comical’ game women could enjoy.”
He was right, they did!
2-Different Markets. When Pac-Man was introduced to the States (October 1980), things really took off thanks to a deal with Bally/Midway. The code was ported across to various other platforms and consoles so that the game was ubiquitous across the country (and later Europe and other countries worldwide) and available on all major personal computer brands.
I.e. the distribution was an incredible success well outside Japan.
3-Different Names. It was originally called ‘Puck-Man’ (a derivative of the Japanese phrase “Paku paku taberu” meaning to gobble something up).
As legend would have it, the original inspiration came when Toru Iwatani saw his a pizza with a slice removed (resembling a hungry face) while the Power-Pellets (AKA Power ‘Cookies’) were inspired by the spinach-superpowers from Popeye.
Namco were concerned American teenagers would vandalise machines to make the name “Puck-Man” obscene, hence the name-change to Pac-Man.
Bonus Ball :
Within Mergers and Acquisitions, a “Pac-Man defence” is a strategy whereby a target-company of a hostile takeover tries to switch things around and buy the acquirer. It refers to when Pac-Man eats an energizer and starts eating the ghosts (rather than the other way around).