Toru Iwatani

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Not to be confused with Satoru Iwata.
Toru Iwatani
Native name 岩谷徹
Born Toru Iwatani
(1955-01-25)January 25, 1955
Meguro, Tokyo, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Occupation Video game designer
Known for Pac-Man

Toru Iwatani (岩谷 徹 Iwatani Tōru?) (January 25, 1955 ) is a Japanese video game designer. He is best known as the creator of the blockbuster arcade game, Pac-Man (1980). He also created other Namco arcade hits, including Gee Bee (1978), Cutie Q (1979), and Pole Position (1982). In later years, he made a cameo appearance in the film Pixels (2015), where a fictionalized version of him is portrayed by Denis Akiyama.

Early life[edit]

Iwatani was born in the Meguro ward of Tokyo, Japan. He was self-taught, without any formal training in computers, visual arts, or graphic design.[1] For example, he filled his school textbooks with scattered manga, which went on to influence the character designs in his video games. He graduated from Tokai University in 1977, with a degree in electrical engineering.[2]

Video game career[edit]

He joined the computer software company Namco in 1977,[1] soon after graduating.[2] This was where he started his career in the video game business. However, he originally joined the company thinking they make pinball machines, but only realized they didn't after he joined the company. This inspired him to create Gee Bee (1978), the first pinball video game. He followed it with two sequels, Bomb Bee (1979) and Cutie Q (1979). Cutie Q featured "cute" non-player characters, including one with a name, "Walk-Man", paving the way for the "cute" player character and ghosts in Pac-Man.[2]

In 1979, he came up with the idea for a game called "Pakku-Man" and in 1980, he, along with programmer Shigeo Funaki (舟木 茂雄), a hardware engineer, a cabinet designer and Toshio Kai (甲斐 敏夫) for sound and music, finished the game. It was released to the Japanese public in May 1980, and became a huge success. It caught the attention of arcade-game manufacturer Midway, who bought the United States rights for the game and released the game in the United States as Pac-Man. Due to its innovative concept and continuing international popularity, it is regarded as one of the all-time classic video games. Iwatani returned to his Pac-Man roots in 2007 when he developed Pac-Man Championship Edition for the Xbox 360, which he states is the final game he will develop.[3]

Iwatani went on to create a few other video games, including Libble Rabble, but none of them reached the amount of success that Pac-Man did. He was promoted within the ranks of Namco, eventually being responsible for overseeing the administration of the company. In a VH-1 Game Break interview, Iwatani said he did not personally profit from the creation of Pac-Man, saying, "The truth of the matter is, there were no rewards per se for the success of Pac-Man. I was just an employee. There was no change in my salary, no bonus, no official citation of any kind."[4] Despite Pac-Man being one of the highest-grossing video games of all time, he received little attention at the time and reportedly only received a relatively small bonus for his work.[5]

Iwatani's greatest success after Pac-Man was Pole Position (1982). While it didn't reach the heights of Pac-Man, Pole Position became the highest-grossing arcade game of 1983. It is considered the most influential racing video game of all time, setting the template for the racing genre.[6]

Later years[edit]

From April 2005, he taught the subject of Character Design Studies at Osaka University of Arts as visiting professor. Iwatani left Namco in March 2007 to become a full-time lecturer at Tokyo Polytechnic University.[7]

On June 2, 2010, just before visiting an event called the Festival of Games in the Netherlands, Iwatani was photographed showing the original sketches of Pac-Man, making it the first public appearance of these designs.[8][9]

The next day, June 3, 2010, at the Festival of Games, Iwatani received a certificate from Guinness World Records for Pac-Man having the most "coin-operated arcade machines" installed world wide: 293,822. The record was set and recognized in 2005, and recorded in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008.[10]

Iwatani made a cameo appearance in the film Pixels, which prominently features Pac-Man as an antagonist. A fictionalized version of Iwatani, portrayed by Denis Akiyama, also appears in the film. The real Iwatani appears in a brief cameo as an arcade repairman.


Title Year released Role
Gee Bee 1978 Designer
Cutie Q 1979 Designer
Pac-Man 1980 Designer
Pole Position 1982 Designer
Libble Rabble 1983 Designer
Pac-Mania 1987 Designer
Pac-Man World 2 2002 Special Thanks
Kill Switch 2004 Special Thanks
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2007 Designer
QRTH-PHYL 2012 Special Thanks



  1. ^ a b "Toru Iwatani, 1986 PacMan Designer | Programmers At Work". Retrieved 2015-07-25. 
  2. ^ a b c Kohler, Chris (2016). Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. p. 51-2. 
  3. ^ Ransom-Wiley, James (2007-06-07). "Chasing pellets: Pac-Man tries to make history again". Joystiq. 
  4. ^ Pfeffer, Helen (2007-06-06). "Exclusive: Pac-Man Creator Speaks!". VH-1. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  5. ^ Steve L. Kent (2001). The ultimate history of video games: from Pong to Pokémon and beyond : the story behind the craze that touched our lives and changed the world. Prima. p. 143. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4. Retrieved May 1, 2011. Despite the success of his game, Iwatani never received much attention. Rumors emerged that the unknown creator of Pac-Man had left the industry when he received only a $3500 bonus for creating the highest-grossing video game of all time. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Wyman, Walt (2006-07-10). "Pac-Man creator leaves Namco Bandai for school". GameSpot. Archived from the original on July 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-31. 
  8. ^ Dierckx, Matthijs (June 22, 2010). "Prof. Toru Iwatani: "This is how I made Pac-Man!"". Control Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Firth, Niall (June 24, 2010). "Japanese inventor of Pac-Man reveals his original sketches of the iconic video game". Daily Mail. London. 
  10. ^ Müller, Martijn (June 3, 2010). "Pac-Man wereldrecord beklonken en het hele verhaal" (in Dutch). NG-Gamer. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. 

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