If you remember Space Invaders, you’re probably a bit disappointed that you are, in fact, old
enough to remember Space Invaders. If you’re not sure, click the sound file below to remind yourself of the funky effects and it will all come rushing back.
A bit of history then and this game was released on an unsuspecting public in 1978. It wasn’t the first coin operated arcade-style machine but it was the first of a certain genre that has stayed with us over the last thirty years or so.
Tomohiro Nishikado, a Japanese game developer working for Taito, spent a year working on
Space Invaders and was influenced by electronic games, specifically Breakout. It is possible to see the relationship between Space Invaders and Breakout when one thinks about it. The blocks become aliens, move around and shoot at you.
The development of Space Invaders was a lengthy affair because of the lack of technology available to cope with the processing power required to support the game.
Nishikado eventually resorted to buying electronics components from the United States and developing his own custom circuit board with an Intel 8080 CPU. There were still problems with game mechanics and Nishikado was unable to be as ambitious as he would have liked. Colour was the main loser and Nishikado’s team got around this problem by placing coloured cellophane on the screen in the appropriate places.
It only took a few months following its release for it to become wildly popular. By 1980, 300,000 table top units had been sold in Japan and 80,000 upright units in the States. By 1982 it has averaged $600 million a year in revenue in its short life span and was being compared to the most popular cinema releases in its ability to make money. Atari licensed Space Invaders for the 2600 console in 1980, bringing it to an even wider audience.
Space Invaders is regarded as the breakthrough which brought gaming from a niche market to a mass audience. It is also the first game known to have used the high score leader board system to remember your scores.