July 26, 2012
The year is 1978; teenagers and young adults are coated in the culture of space movies in the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek. Something great was emerging and it was born in an arcade cabinet which was developed by Taito. Space Invaders was one of the first shooting games as well as the initiator of a long legacy of clones and spin off games where the objective was to destroy incoming alien invaders.
Designed by Nishikado Tomohiro, Space invaders is one of few games that can be called ‘original’. Taito executives were strongly against the use of humans as enemies and due to programming limitations that made plane animations completely unavailable, the alien foe was the easy choice. The game was a massive hit which sold over 360 000 cabinets worldwide and caused a hilarious 100 yen coin shortage in some parts of Japan. There were long queues that stretched for long distances in order to play the game for approximately five minutes at the arcade halls in order to achieve the high score. The actual arcade revenue of Space Invaders is estimated to around four billion quarters in today’s measurements.
The game is very simple, but certainly not easy. There is a single joystick with a fire button and that is all folks. Move the ship back and forth and slay the invaders with beams of laser before they reach you. A small number of protective bases are used as temporary cover against incoming alien fire. Destroy all the invaders in order to reach the next level, which will increase in difficulty successively. Occasionally, a flying ‘mother ship’ will appear on the top of the screen, providing the player with a lot of extra points if defeated.
This retro game was a total revolution in the gaming industry. Arcade halls were opening containing only Space Invaders cabinets as it was the only game on people’s mind. At Launch it was possible to obtain a Space Invaders machine for around 1000 dollars, but sometime after the release, the price could range from 2000$ up to 3000$. Before Space Invaders, cabinets were mostly found in bars or isolated arcade stands. But by being such a smash hit, enthusiastic gamers invested their money in a cabinet, which brought enough income to expand larger areas of pure arcade halls. Without a doubt, Space invaders is one of the fathers of video games and has contributed much to what they are today.