Space Invaders (スペースインベーダー Supēsu Inbēdā?) is an arcade video game designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, and released in 1978. It was originally manufactured and sold by Taito in Japan, and was later licensed for production in the United States by the Midway division of Bally. Space Invaders is one of the earliest shooting games and the aim is to defeat waves of aliens with a laser cannon to earn as many points as possible. In designing the game, Nishikado drew inspiration from popular media: Breakout, The War of the Worlds, and Star Wars. To complete it, he had to design custom hardware and development tools.
It was one of the forerunners of modern video gaming and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry (see golden age of video arcade games). When first released, Space Invaders was very successful. Following its release, the game caused a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins in Japan and grossed US$2 billion worldwide by 1982.
The game has been the inspiration for other video games, re-released on numerous platforms, and led to several sequels. The 1980 Atari 2600 version quadrupled the system's sales and became the first "killer app" for video game consoles. Space Invaders has been referenced and parodied in multiple television shows, and been a part of several video game and cultural exhibitions. The pixelated enemy alien has become a pop culture icon, often used as a synecdoche representing video games as a whole.
In February 1978, a programmer called Toshihiro Nishikado finalized a primitive spaceship shoot'em up video game. Originally, the player had to shoot down soldiers who tried to cross the screen but, at the time, it was politically unwise to encourage killing humans, the soldiers were then replaced with an alien invasion.
Four month later, Taito, a company that sold video games since 1971, launched the first Space Invaders coin operated cabinet. The game became immediately a national passion. It was so popular in Japan that it caused a severe shortage of the 100-Yen coins needed to play the game, until the coins production was quadrupled. Beside arcades shops which featured nothing but Space Invader machines, one found Space Invaders cabinets everywhere in Japan: restaurants, ice cream and pizza shops, laundries...
In 1980, the game was licensed from Taito by Midway for production and use in the United States. The mania wasn’t quite as intense - no quarter shortage - but Space Invaders was still a phenomenal success. The same year, it was released on the Atari 2600, making it the first ever home conversion of an arcade game. Several dozen thousands 2600 consoles were then sold only for playing Space Invaders.
This game was probably the first game to manifest "repetitive motion injuries" and "near-epileptic seizures" in children - something that disturbed medical and childhood development professionals that wanted it banned.
500,000 machines were sold worldwide, 350,000 of which were sold in Japan alone. Literally billions of dollars and yens in coins were pumped into the machine from 1978 to 1980. The original Space Invaders brought in over $500 million in revenue for Taito, making it, even today, one of the most profitable and successful games of all time. Of course, Space Invaders was followed by numerous imitators such as Space Invaders II, Invaders Revenge or Galaxian.
Later, Activision, Inc. acquired the rights to develop and produce interactive games based on Space Invaders for the PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Nintendo Gameboy systems worldwide, excluding Japan, making Space Invader still alive more than 20 years after it was launched.