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
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.