Ms. Pac-Man Turns 35

February 3rd, 2017 by Benj Edwards

Ms. Pac-Man Arcade Flier Flyer

35 years ago today, Ms. Pac-Man made its worldwide public debut during a press conference held by Namco at Castle Park Entertainment Center in Sherman Oaks, a neighborhood of Los Angeles. Ms. Pac-Man launched on February 3, 1982.

In 2011, I interviewed three of Ms. Pac-Man’s creators in depth for a planned feature I was going to write about the game’s 30th anniversary. That project fell through, and although many journalists have written about Ms. Pac-Man since then (and its creators began giving public talks years ago), I found that my old interviews still contained fascinating nuggets of information on the game that had not yet come to light.

So I turned all of my source material on Ms. Pac-Man into an oral history, which just published. It’s likely that just about everything you’d ever want to know about Ms. Pac-Man’s creation is covered there.

On VC&G, I would like to talk specifically about how I discovered the release date for Ms. Pac-Man, since I’d like people to correct the information that’s out there. (Prior to the publication of my article, sites stated the launch date of Ms. Pac-Man anywhere between late 1981 and January 1982. Wikipedia still says “January 13, 1982” as the launch date — I’ve asked Ms. Pac-Man’s creators, and none of us can figure out where it came from.)

While I found evidence in a single newspaper arcade advertisement that Ms. Pac-Man was anticipated as early as January 31, 1982 (possibly from a test location), Bally Midway formally announced Ms. Pac-Man to the world during a press conference on Wednesday, February 3rd, 1982. A key newspaper report confirms this:

Newspaper Article Describing Ms Pac-Man Launch Date

That’s an article from the Los Angeles Times dated Thursday, February 4th, 1982. It mentions the press conference happening on Wednesday of that week — hence, Feb 3, 1982.

Here’s another article Ms. Pac-Man announcement article newspapers reprinted verbatim widely across the US. It is based on the article above and sent out as a wire report for syndication:

Newspaper Article Describing Ms Pac-Man Launch Date

Anyway — what a game, what a story. I hope you enjoy reading about how a band of plucky New England upstarts created the most popular arcade game in U.S. history.

4 Responses to “Ms. Pac-Man Turns 35”

  1. cozmo Says:

    That was a great read, Benj, and I learned quite a few new things about one of my favorite games. I think the part that resonated most with me was the line, “They didn’t owe us that, but they’re nice guys.” So often it seems that people will spend so much time and effort trying to cut deserved others out when it comes to money/recognition (imagine if Steve Jobs was running GCC…)

  2. Ant Says:

    Wakka wakka wakka!

  3. Zoyous Says:

    Thanks for that, Benj! That’s a great interview. I was surprised a few years ago when I read that Ms. Pac-Man was not created by Namco. But as you noted, the info that’s floating around out there on the internet has been very incomplete and/or includes mistakes.

    I was also surprised to learn that the developers were GCC. I was aware of them from reading here and there about the development of the Atari 7800, and listening to panel discussions of some of the in-house developers of games for the Atari 2600. Some of the veteran Atari developers seemed a bit resentful that GCC was granted permission to use additional chips in their cartridges while Atari’s own in-house devs had to struggle against the limitations of the base cartridge specs.

    Lastly, I appreciate the interviewee’s reflections on what a brief, intense period of time that heyday of arcades was. I experienced it from a consumer/enthusiast perspective, and that of a very young one. It’s very interesting and satisfying to learn about the engineers, designers, artists and business people of that era, who were doing their best to navigate this completely uncharted territory.

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the piece, Zoyous. Thanks for the great feedback!

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