Pac-Man (Pakkuman) is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway, first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular from its original release, 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, Ms. Pac-Man 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 first launched, 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 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.
Pac-Man 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, where it would sell more than 350,000 arcade cabinets (retailing at around $2400 each) for $1 billion (equivalent to over $2.3 billion in 2011) within 18 months, and gross over $1 billion in quarters within a year, surpassing the revenues grossed by the highest-grossing film Star Wars.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the game's total gross in quarters had been estimated at more than 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion), equivalent to over $3.4 billion in 2011, making it the highest-grossing video game of all time.
Now ask yourself: how many quarters have you pumped into a video game or pinball machine in your lifetime? Forget about the money, how much of your life have you spent standing in front of one of those arcade cabinets? I think that if we all would answer honestly, we all spent way too much of our precious time and money on that little hussy, Ms. Pac-Man.
Today, instead of pumping quarters into an arcade cabinet, we trade our time on this planet for watching sidebar advertisements via Facebook, Google or Twitter. There is no slot for quarters on the side of our HDTV in the living room. Today, if you watch 60 minutes of broadcast TV, you will see over 20 minutes of paid advertising. We traded up; we went from video arcade cabinets that were insatiable for quarters for the newer “free” arcade cabinets of today – our laptops, iPads, iPhones and flat screen TVs all connected to the Internet.
Years ago, when you ran out of quarters, you were done. Video arcades were not open 24 x 7 and you had to drive or walk or ride your bike to get to them. Or, there was a line at the game; you could watch others play but you could not play the game yourself. When you did get your turn, you could not play forever; you had to stop at some point, even if that point only came when you ran out of money. You went home, and you did something else.
Today, there is no stopping, and there is no waiting in lines. You don’t need money, and you don’t need to leave the house. There is nothing to protect us from our own bad behavior, like the running out of quarters. You can just keep on going and going and going……consuming more and more and more. Just like Ms. Pac-Man.