The Space Invaders Arcade Machine that took over the world
The Space Invaders Arcade Machine is super popular and sold by Electro Arcade ;-). The original however was born in 1978 and sold by Taito Japan. Not only did it heavily influence the gaming industry and future titles but started a trend of innovation and rapid growth referred to as the golden age of gaming.
The Space Invaders machine came in two different arcade cabinets which continued to be a standard approach for arcade game manufacturers through the 80s and 90s. This included the standard upright arcade machine and the sit down 2 player cocktail table top machine that flipped the screen to face the current player. The sit down machines were often seen with the plastic stools which have become synonymous with retro gaming history.
Space Invaders is a 2D shooter where you, the human are tasked with the job of defending the earth from aliens. Each level contains 48 aliens spread across 5 rows. The aliens move back and forth across the screen gradually increasing in speed. You have 3 lives to hit all aliens with the aid of 3 shields, however the game ends if the aliens reach you at the base of the screen!
Space Invaders was a massive hit in Japan. Within the first year Taito had sold over 100,000 arcade machine cabinets locally! By the end of 1979 Taito had reached around 400,000 units and was manufacturing around 30,000 arcade machines per month.
International distribution was subsequently licensed to Midway who sold machines into countries including UK, America and Australia. Space Invaders continued to outperform the competition for over a decade until Street Fighter II was released in 1991.
The crazy demand and obsession with Space Invaders lead to it being the first arcade title to be ported to a home gaming console in 1980. Yes, Atari striked that deal for their 2600 console.
The Atari 2600 already had a number of titles, but no stand outs. So what happened when word got out that you could play Space Invaders at home?
Sales of the Atari 2600 quadrupled after the game's release and in less than 3 years (1983) over 6 million Space Invader cartridges had been sold
Thanks to quick thinking and negotiating from Atari, Space Invaders provided the growth in sales Atari needed. Games that previously sat on the shelf were now flying out the door. Its no surprise Space Invaders is said to have re-ignited consumer interest in what was a dwindling home console market. While Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 was not as advanced as the arcade version it captured the games spirit and consumers dollars.
Since then, the original Space Invaders and variations of it have made it onto numerous home gaming consoles.
Space Invaders has been ported to the following consoles
- Space Invaders
- Atari 2600
- Atari 5200
- Space Invaders Forever
- Nintendo Switch
- PlayStation 4
- Ultimate Space Invaders
- Xbox One
Within 4 years of its release, Space Invaders had grossed 3.8 billion in sales and as of 2016 exceeded 13 billion. While considered the highest-grossing video game of all time, Pac-Man is meant to currently hold that title.
Taito followed up with well known titles including Bubble Bobble and Arkanoid, while Atari continued with Asteroids and Missile Command.
Successful non Taito titles to follow this format were Galaxian in '79 and 1942 in '84.
Some Space Invaders fun facts
- Tomohiro Nishikado created Space Invaders and was responsible for everything including new hardware development, code, artwork and theme
- Unlike modern gaming, to overcome limitations the gameboard, hardware and accessories for Space Invaders was created from scratch
- Space Invaders was the first game to give players lives
- Space Invaders was almost a warship invasion game with a defending cannon. Thankfully sprite clarity and technical restrictions saw the end of that
- Space Invaders Arcade follow ups included... Space Invaders Part II 1978, Space Invaders II, Return of the Invaders 1985, Minivader, Super Space Invaders '91, Space Invaders DX, Space Invaders '95 and Space Invaders The Beat Attacker in 2008
In todays market you can play either the Arcade or various console versions of Space Invaders on many emulators.
From a TV plugin unit or stand alone arcade cabinet, these consoles include Pandoras box, Super console X, PC with Mame.
While handhelds include a wide range of Anbernic consoles, Ayn, Evercade, Gameforce, Miyoo, Odroid Go, Powkiddy and Retroid Pocket.
40+ years on, the alien symbol is still synonymous with Space Invaders and demand for Space Invaders arcade machines still holds strong.