Tron (video game)

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Tron Flyer.png
North American arcade flyer.
Developer(s) Bally Midway
ENCOM International
Platform(s) Arcade
Release 1982
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single player or 2 players alternating
Cabinet Standard upright, mini upright, cocktail
Arcade system Midway MCR-II
CPU main: Zilog Z80 @ 2.5 MHz
sound: Zilog Z80 @ 2 MHz[1]
Sound 2 x AY-3-8910
unamplified stereo
Display Resolution 512 x 480

Tron is a coin-operated arcade video game distributed by Disney Interactive Studios in 1981 and manufactured by Bally Midway in 1982. The game consists of four subgames inspired by the events of the Walt Disney Productions motion picture Tron released in the same year. The lead programmer was Bill Adams.[2]

Most of the 12 difficulty levels are named after programming languages. From lowest to highest: RPG, COBOL, BASIC, FORTRAN, SNOBOL, PL1, PASCAL, ALGOL, ASSEMBLY, OS, JCL, USER.[1]

Tron was followed by the 1983 sequel, Discs of Tron, which was not as successful as the original. A number of other licensed Tron games were released for home systems, but these were based on elements of the movie and not the arcade game. The arcade was not ported to any contemporary systems. On January 10, 2008, the game was released for Xbox Live Arcade, ported by Digital Eclipse and branded by Disney Interactive.


Arcade cabinet[edit]

Tron was distributed in three types of cabinets: the standard upright, the mini upright and the cocktail (table) version.

All cabinets feature an 8-way joystick for moving, with one button for firing or speed control, and a rotary dial for controlling the direction of the fire (a setup also used in Midway's Kozmik Krooz'r). The game can be played by one player or by two alternating players.[1]


The player in the role of Tron has to beat four subgames, each at 12 increasingly difficult levels. All four segments of one level must be completed before continuing on to the next level.

I/O Tower[edit]

This segment of the game mimics the scene from the motion picture in which Tron enters the Input/Output tower. In the arcade game, the player must destroy large numbers of Grid Bugs with Tron's disc and clear a path to the flashing circle, which must be entered before a timer runs out to complete the section. If a Bit appears on the screen, it can be picked up for a bonus of 5000 points.

MCP Cone[edit]

This area imitates Tron's final battle against the MCP. The game's interpretation has the player destroying a multicolored wall in front of the MCP cone and getting by the wall, into the cone. A 1000-point bonus is awarded for completing the level, and an additional 1000 points is given for destroying all blocks of the wall.

Battle Tanks[edit]

The Battle Tanks subgame is not strictly based on film events, but the tanks are taken from there and the gameplay is similar to Atari's Combat. The gameplay does resembles a two dimensional version of the in-universe game Space Paranoids which itself was realized as a 3-D first person maze shooter but would have been difficult to realize on real world arcade machines of the time. The player must guide Tron's red tank through a maze and destroy several blue tanks or red recognizers controlled by the computer. This must be done without taking any hits from enemies. If the player drives into the purple diamond in the center of the maze, the tank is warped to a random area of the maze. A bug in the game results in a cheat option. When the player's tank is not touching the white line in the corridors, it can not be hit by the enemy's fire, but it can still be rammed by enemy tanks.

Light Cycles[edit]

In a player versus AI variant of the snake concept, the player guides a blue Light Cycle in an arena against an opponent, while avoiding the walls and trails of light left behind by both Light Cycles. The player must maneuver quickly and precisely in order to force opponents to run into walls. The enemy cycles have a fixed behavior pattern for each level: if the player can find it, the opponent can be defeated every time on this level.


These floating vehicles take the place of the tanks at higher levels in the tanks game. In the film, the Recognizers were the vehicles that attempted to stop the light cycles from escaping the game grid by "stomping" on them, and one of these vehicles was also the type of machine that Flynn "resurrected" with his user powers.

Recognizers do not fire at the player's tank at all but move at high speed, relentlessly converging on the player's location, and each still requires three shots to be destroyed.


The video game's story was based on an early draft of the script for Tron. In the game, the light cycle the player controls is blue and the enemy light cycles are yellow whereas in the film the colors of the opposing players are reversed. The Grid Bugs played a major part as an enemy Tron has to fight whereas in the film they are only briefly shown. The MCP cone was rewritten as the MCP's tower in the film but remained in the game with the same premise for the player to breach it. The tank level is based on the tanks in the film. During the fifth stage the enemy tanks are replaced by faster, non-shooting recognizers.


Tron was awarded "Coin-Operated Game of the Year" by Electronic Games magazine.[2]

The New York Times reported that 800 arcade cabinets were sold by 1982.[3] The book The naked computer reported that Tron made $45,000,000 by 1983.[4] In USgamer's estimation 10,000 cabinets were sold and the game made more than $30,000,000 of revenue by 1983.[citation needed]


The world record high score for Tron was set in July 2011 by David Cruz of Brandon, Florida. Cruz scored 14,007,645 points based on Twin Galaxies rules and settings for the game.[5]


Discs of Tron (1983) is an arcade game which was originally intended as a fifth segment of Tron but was left out because programming was not finished in time.[1] In it, the player engages in disc throwing combat, similar to the film sequence. Discs of Tron was not widely released.

The light cycles segment of Tron has led to snake games sometimes being called "Matrix Blaster" or "Light Cycles" games. Some post-Tron snake games use themes or terminology from the film.


  1. ^ a b c d "Tron Arcade". Archived from the original (Web) on July 2, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-15. Information about technical specifications, cabinets, gameplay, level keywords. 
  2. ^ a b "About the technology author(s)" (Web). IBM Multimodal Annotation Tool. 2002-08-09. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  3. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (3 July 1982). "Movie Themes Come To Video Games". Star-News. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Jack B. Rochester & John Gantz (1983), The naked computer: a layperson's almanac of computer lore, wizardry, personalities, memorabilia, world records, mind blowers, and tomfoolery, William Morrow and Company, p. 164, ISBN 0-688-02450-5, retrieved 20 April 2011, Although the Disney Studios expected to make over $400 million from this siliconic extravaganza, our source at Variety tells us that its North American rentals were $15 million and estimated total gross, $30 million. The arcade game Tron, made by Bally, grossed more. 
  5. ^ "Twin Galaxies Scoreboard of TRON" (Web). Retrieved 2010-12-29. 

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