1981 in video games

Fueled by the previous year's release of the colorful and appealing Pac-Man, the audience for arcade games in 1981 became much wider. Pac-Man influenced maze games began appearing in arcades and on home systems. Pac-Man was again the year's highest-grossing video game for the second year in a row. Nintendo released the arcade game Donkey Kong, which defined the platformer genre. Other arcade hits released in 1981 include Defender, Scramble, Frogger, and Galaga. The year's best-selling home system was Nintendo's Game & Watch, for the second year in a row.

List of years in video games

Financial performanceEdit

Highest-grossing arcade gamesEdit

The year's highest-grossing video game was Pac-Man with $1.2 billion in arcade game revenue, three times the box office revenue of the highest-grossing film Star Wars (1977) in five years.[5]

JapanEdit

In Japan, the following titles were the highest-grossing arcade video games of 1981, according to the annual Game Machine chart.[6]

Rank Title Manufacturer Genre
1 Donkey Kong Nintendo Platformer
2 Janputer Sanritsu Mahjong
3 Pro Golf Data East Sports
4 Pac-Man Namco Maze
5 Qix Taito Puzzle
6 Galaga Namco Shoot 'em up
7 Bosconian
8 Crazy Climber Nichibutsu Climbing
9 Crush Roller Kural Maze
10 Grand Champion Taito Racing

United StatesEdit

In the United States, the following titles were the top three highest-grossing arcade games of 1981, according to the annual Cash Box and RePlay arcade charts.

Rank Play Meter[7] Cash Box[8] RePlay[9] Revenue Genre
1 Pac-Man $1,000,000,000[10] Maze
2 Defender Un­known Shoot 'em up
3 Un­known Asteroids Un­known

The following titles were the top-grossing arcade games of each month in 1981, according to the Play Meter and RePlay arcade charts.

Month Play Meter RePlay Ref
January Pac-Man[11] Asteroids [12]
February [13]
March [14]
April Defender [15]
May [16][17]
June Scramble [18]
July Un­known Pac-Man [19]
August Defender[20] Defender [21]
September Gorf[22] [23]
October Donkey Kong[24] [25]
November Un­known [26]
December Vanguard Pac-Man [27][28]
1981 Pac-Man [7][9]

Best-selling home video gamesEdit

The following titles were the best-selling home video games in 1981.[29]

Rank Title Platform Developer Publisher Release Year Genre Sales
1 Space Invaders Atari VCS Taito Atari, Inc. 1980 Shoot 'em up 2,964,137
2 Warlords Atari VCS Atari, Inc. 1981 Action 936,861
3 Breakout Atari VCS Atari, Inc. 1978 Action 838,635
4 Night Driver Atari VCS Atari, Inc. 1980 Racing 779,547
5 Asteroids Atari VCS Atari, Inc. 1981 Shoot 'em up 407,090
Football Atari VCS Atari, Inc. 1979 Sports (American football) Un­known

Best-selling home systemsEdit

Rank System(s) Manufacturer(s) Type Generation Sales Ref
1 Game & Watch Nintendo Handheld 4,000,000+ [30]
2 Atari Video Computer System (VCS) Atari, Inc. Console Second 3,600,000 [31][32]
3 Personal computer (PC) Various Computer 8-bit / 16-bit 1,400,000 [33]
4 Intellivision Mattel Console Second 1,000,000+ [34]
5 Atari 400 / Atari 800 Atari, Inc. Computer 8-bit 300,000 [33]
6 ZX81 Sinclair Research Computer 8-bit 250,000+ [35]
7 TRS-80 Tandy Corporation Computer 8-bit 250,000 [33]
8 Apple II Apple Inc. Computer 8-bit 210,000 [33]
9 Commodore PET Commodore International Computer 8-bit 40,000 [33]
10 IBM Personal Computer (IBM PC) IBM Computer 8-bit / 16-bit 35,000 [33]

EventsEdit

MagazinesEdit

  • January – Atari computer magazine ANALOG Computing begins 9 years of publication. Most issues include at least one BASIC game and one machine language game.
  • November – The British video game magazine Computer and Video Games (C&VG) starts.
  • Winter – Arnie Katz and Bill Kunkel found Electronic Games, the first magazine on video games and generally recognized as the beginning of video game journalism.

BusinessEdit

BirthsEdit

MayEdit

  • May 11 – JP Karliak: American actor, voice actor and comedian

Notable releasesEdit

GamesEdit

Arcade
Console
Computer

HardwareEdit

Arcade
Computer
Handheld

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Video Game Myth Busters - Did the "Crash" of 1983/84 Affect Arcades?, The Golden Age Arcade Historian (December 27, 2013)
  2. ^ George Lucas and the Digital Revolution Archived January 29, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, p. 296, 2006
  3. ^ Lindner, Richard (1990). Video Games: Past, Present and Future; An Industry Overview. United States: Nintendo of America.
  4. ^ 2600connection.com (PDF) https://web.archive.org/web/20141107055201/http://2600connection.com/library/magazines/spectrum/spectrum_dec82.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 7, 2014. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Culhane, John (July 4, 1982). "Special Effects Are Revolutionizing Film". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  6. ^ ""Donkey Kong" No.1 Of '81 — Game Machine's Survey Of "The Year's Best Three AM Machines" —" (PDF). Game Machine. No. 182. Amusement Press, Inc. February 15, 1982. p. 30.
  7. ^ a b "1981". Play Meter. Vol. 20, no. 13. December 1994. p. 66.
  8. ^ "1981 Jukebox/Games Route Survey". Cash Box. Cash Box Pub. Co. October 31, 1981. p. C-18.
  9. ^ a b "Authoritative Industry Sources Acclaim: Pac-Man Top Video Game of the Year". Cash Box. Cash Box Pub. Co. December 26, 1981. p. 91.
  10. ^ "Pac-Man leads video game invasion of Europe". Europe. Delegation of the Commission of the European Communities. 217–234: 26. 1982. Introduced in the United States in 1981 as a coin-operated video game, Pac-Man swallowed in its first year an estimated $1 billion in quarters. Although it is probably the most popular, Pac-Man is, however, only one of several hundred
  11. ^ Sullivan, George (1983). "The First Big Hits". Screen Play: The Story of Video Games. F. Warne. pp. 38–47 (44). ISBN 978-0-7232-6251-0.
  12. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. January 1981.
  13. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. February 1981.
  14. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. March 1981.
  15. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. April 1981.
  16. ^ "Top Coin-Op Video Game Earners". Play Meter. May 20, 1981.
  17. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. May 1981.
  18. ^ Kubey, Craig (1982). The Winners' Book of Video Games. New York: Warner Books. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-446-37115-5.
  19. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. July 1981.
  20. ^ Kubey, Craig (1982). The Winners' Book of Video Games. New York: Warner Books. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-446-37115-5.
  21. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. August 1981.
  22. ^ Kubey, Craig (1982). The Winners' Book of Video Games. New York: Warner Books. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-446-37115-5.
  23. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. September 1981.
  24. ^ "Donkey Kong". Joystik. 1 (2): 12–19 (13). November 1982.
  25. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. October 1981.
  26. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. November 1981.
  27. ^ "Equipment Poll". Play Meter. December 1981.
  28. ^ "RePlay: The Players' Choice". RePlay. December 1981.
  29. ^ Cartridge Sales Since 1980. Atari Corp. Via "The Agony & The Ecstasy". Once Upon Atari. Episode 4. Scott West Productions. August 10, 2003. 23 minutes in.
  30. ^ "昔(1970年代)のテレビゲームは何台売れた?" [How many old (1970s) video games sold?]. Classic Videogame Station Odyssey (in Japanese). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  31. ^ Pollack, Andrew (June 9, 1982). "The Video Game Sales War". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 2, 2021.
  32. ^ Urschel, Joe (March 6, 1982). "Gobbling up the home video market". The Day. p. C-6. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  33. ^ a b c d e f Reimer, Jeremy (December 15, 2005). "Total share: 30 years of personal computer market share figures". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on June 7, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2021.
  34. ^ Sklarewitz, Norman (May 24, 1982). "Computerized games hit profits jackpot for Mattel company". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  35. ^ "More Sinclair Computers Than Any Other!". Creative Computing. Vol. 8, no. 4. April 1982. p. 6.
  36. ^ Game Genres: Shmups[permanent dead link], Professor Jim Whitehead, January 29, 2007, Accessed June 17, 2008
  37. ^ "donkey kong [coin-op] arcade video game, nintendo co., ltd. (1981)". Arcade-history.com. Retrieved February 28, 2013.