Pole Position (video game)

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Pole Position
Pole Position cover.jpg
Arcade flyer
Developer(s) Namco
Publisher(s)
Designer(s) Tōru Iwatani
Platform(s) Arcade, Atari consoles, Home computers
Release date(s)
  • JP September 1, 1982
  • NA November 1982
Genre(s) Racing
Mode(s) Single player
Cabinet Upright and environmental
Arcade system Namco Pole Position
CPU 1x ZiLOG Z80 @ 3.072 MHz,
2x Z8002 @ 3.072 MHz,
1x MB8844 @ 256 kHz
Sound 1x Namco WSG @ 48 kHz,
1x Namco 52XX @ 1.536 MHz
Display Horizontal orientation, Raster, 256 x 224 resolution

Pole Position (ポールポジション Pōru Pojishon?) is an arcade racing video game which was released by Namco in 1982 and licensed to Atari, Inc. for US manufacture and distribution. It was designed by Tōru Iwatani, who had also designed the Gee Bee games and Pac-Man. It was the most popular coin-op arcade game of 1983. Pole Position was released in two configurations: a standard upright cabinet, and an environmental/cockpit cabinet. Both versions feature a steering wheel and a gear shifter for low and high gears, but the environmental/cockpit cabinet featured both an accelerator and a brake pedal, while the standard upright one only featured an accelerator pedal.[1]

By 1983, it had become the highest-grossing arcade game that year in North America,[2] where it had sold over 21,000 machines for $61 million,[3][4] equivalent to $140 million in 2012.[5] It was the most successful racing game of the classic era, spawning ports, sequels, and a Saturday morning cartoon.[2] The game established the conventions of the racing game genre and its success inspired numerous imitators. Pole Position is thus regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time and "arguably the most important racing game ever made."[6]

Gameplay[edit]

Gameplay of Pole Position.

In this game, the player controls a Formula One race car, and has to complete a time trial lap within a certain amount of time (between 90 and 120 seconds) to qualify for an F1 race at the Fuji Racetrack. After qualifying, the player races against seven other CPU-controlled cars in a championship race (but if he or she does not qualify, the car will stay on the track until the timer runs out). The player must also avoid going off the road so that he or she will not crash into the billboards.

Pole Position was the first racing video game to feature a track based on a real racing circuit. It was also the first game to feature a qualifying lap, requiring the player to complete a time trial before they can compete in Grand Prix races. Once the player has qualified, they must complete the race in the time allowed, avoiding collisions with CPU-controlled opponents and billboards along the sides of the track. The game's publisher Atari publicized the game for its "unbelievable driving realism" in providing a Formula 1 experience behind a racing wheel. The game's graphics featured full-colour landscapes with scaling sprites, including race cars and other signs, and a perspective view of the track, with its vanishing point swaying side to side as the player approaches corners, accurately simulating forward movement into the distance.[7]

Development[edit]

For manufacture and distribution in the United States, Namco approached Bally Midway with a choice of two games in 1982. Bally Midway chose Mappy while Atari was left to publish Pole Position, which turned out to be the most popular game of 1983.

Advertising[edit]

The game was an early example of product placement within a video game, with billboards around the track advertising actual companies.[8] However, some billboards were specific to the two versions such as those of Pepsi and Canon in the Namco version, and those of 7-Eleven, Dentyne, Centipede, and Dig Dug in the Atari version, which replaced such billboards as those of Marlboro and Martini & Rossi, who although were prominent motorsport sponsors at the time, would be found inappropriate in the American market for a game aimed towards children. Other billboards appeared in both versions.

The game was also featured in a TV commercial shown only on MTV (originally called Music Television). It was part of a series of TV spots that Atari created in the 1980s exclusively for MTV.[9]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 4/5 stars (Atari 2600)[10]
4/5 stars (Atari 5200)[11]
Computer Gamer 4.5/5 stars (Spectrum)[12]
Your Spectrum 4/5 stars (Spectrum)[13]
Awards
Publication Award
Arcade Awards (1983) Coin-Op Game of the Year[14]
Arkie Awards (1984) Computer Game of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[15]

Ports[edit]

Pole Position was ported to a number of home computers and consoles, by Atarisoft in the early 1980s. In the mid-1990s Pole Position made a comeback on Windows PCs when it was included as part of Microsoft Return of Arcade, and later appeared on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast systems in Namco Museum Volume 1. Since that time, Pole Position has been included in many subsequent Namco Museum releases, such as on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Xbox. Fuji Speedway was renamed to "Namco Speedway" in the Museum releases and the plug-n-play versions, except in Namco Museum Virtual Arcade which renamed it to "Blue Speedway", and the 2004 Ms. Pac-Man plug-n-play TV game released by Jakks Pacific and developed by HotGen Studios, which changed the billboards to advertise the four other featured games.

A Pole Position (Puffer Version) was created but not published, that used the Puffer exercise bike controller.

A version of Pole Position was released for iPod on January 21, 2008. On September 14, 2008, a version of Pole Position was released for iOS devices called Pole Position: Remix. The game features upgraded graphics and several different control methods, but remains similar in content to the original. This version of Pole Position also features the tracks from Pole Position II and a new track called Misaki Point.

Sequels[edit]

Pole Position II was released in 1983, and featured three additional courses in addition to the original Fuji track. It features slightly improved graphics, as well as a different car color scheme and opening theme. Several new billboards have also been introduced.

While many considered the three-screened racer TX-1, released in 1984 by Atari and designed by Tatsumi to be a sequel to Pole Position II, the true sequel arrived in 1987 with the release of Final Lap - which may be considered an unofficial Pole Position III.[citation needed] Final Lap would later spawn a racing-RPG spin-off for the TurboGrafx-16 video game console called Final Lap Twin in 1989 - as well as three directly-related arcade sequels, Final Lap 2 (in 1990), Final Lap 3 (in 1992), and Final Lap R (in 1993).

There is also the aforementioned Pole Position: Remix for the iPod and iPhone which features updated graphics and music, and all four courses that were previously featured in Pole Position II in addition to the aforementioned new course, Misaki Point.

Other media[edit]

The title spawned a cartoon of the same name, despite there being very little in common between the two.[2]

Pole Position is played by the characters Daryl and Turtle in the motion picture D.A.R.Y.L. and is one of the first times in the film where Daryl — a seemingly normal boy who is actually an android — displays some of his super-human abilities by earning an amazingly high score in the game.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.arcade-museum.com - Pole Position - video game by Atari
  2. ^ a b c Gifford, Kevin (March 16, 2011). "Final Lap Twin". MagWeasel. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Fujihara, Mary (1983-11-02). "Inter Office Memo". Atari. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "Atari Production Numbers Memo". Atari Games. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "CPI Inflation Calculator". Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  6. ^ Loguidice, Bill; Barton, Matt (2009), Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time, Focal Press, pp. 195–6, ISBN 0-240-81146-1 
  7. ^ Bernard Perron & Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), Video game theory reader two, p. 157, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-96282-X
  8. ^ "ポールポジション/Ⅱ" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  9. ^ http://digthatbox.com/classic_1980s_atari_mtv_commercials.html
  10. ^ Pole Position (Atari VCS) at AllGame
  11. ^ Pole Position (Atari 5200) at AllGame
  12. ^ "Pole Position". Computer Gamer (6): 64. September 1985. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Joystick Jury". Your Spectrum (13): 49. April 1985. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Coin-Op Game of the Year". Electronic Games 2 (23): 77. January 1984. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Coin-Op Game of the Year". Electronic Games 3 (35): 29. January 1985. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 

External links[edit]