The original Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man arcade games were huge hits, setting sales records that still stand in the world of coin-operated machines today. Just like it does today, success in the video game industry of the early eighties meant more games based on the same concept.
Bally Midway, the company which held the Pac-Man license in North America at the time, was eager to follow up on the Pac-craze, displaying three new Pac-Man titles at the 1982 Amusement and Music Operators Association convention. Namco-developed sequel Super Pac-Man joined Midway's Pac-Man Plus enhancement kit on display, but it was the third title that truly stood out from the pack.
Baby Pac-Man was "born" on November 18, 1982 according to a "birth announcement" given out at the AMOA show as it opened that day. The seemingly natural progression of the romance of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, this new "child" of a game combined a basic Pac-Man style video game with a small pinball playfield.
By this time, video games had all but run pinball out of town. A full pinball machine based on the Pac-Man license had been released nine months prior to the first appearance of Baby Pac-Man. It was hoped that the unique combination of a pinball concept with a Pac-Man video game might renew some interest in the pinball market.
Unfortunately, the video game and pinball components within Baby Pac-Man were notorious for having problems communicating, causing the machine to go out of order often. Pinball fans failed to be impressed with the limited playfield while fans of the other Pac-Man games did not like the video game portion of the product. The game graphics lacked the detail and charm of the older Pac-titles and were displayed on a smaller monitor, yet the difficulty of the game was far greater than the previous games in the series.
Baby Pac-Man went on to sell 7,000 units, a number that would be a success in the modern day arcade market but a far cry from the sales of the "parent" machines, both of which sold more than 100,000 units in North America. The addition of the pinball portion combined with the ailing video game market of 1983 ensured there would be no home console version.
The character of Baby Pac-Man, however, proved successful within licensed products, including being a regular character in the Saturday morning Pac-Man cartoon. The revenue from character licensing attracted a lawsuit from General Computer Corporation, the creators of Ms. Pac-Man, stating that the concept of a Pac-Man child first appeared within their game. The next year, GCC would go on to develop Jr. Pac-Man for Bally Midway, a character not based on the existing Pac-child.
While Baby Pac-Man may not have left the same legacy as his more famous parents, the unique nature of the arcade game has made it a popular find for game room collectors in recent years. Now at age 30, the game is not a baby anymore.
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