Galaxian and Asteroids – 1979

After the success of Space Invaders in 1978, the video game market started to develop and grow as companies such as Nintendo began to enter the scene. Early colour games such as Galaxian were released, as well as Atari’s Asteroids beating Space Invaders as to become the most popular US arcade game of the time.

Galaxian (1979)

Galaxian was one of the first games developed by Namco, which proved to be a huge success as it is now famed as one of the biggest games that came out of the ‘golden age of video games’. The game was developed specially to rival Taito’s Space Invaders (1978), which was one of the best and innovative games of its time. Because of this, Namco put together a special team to improve on the original game and develop it further to become as huge a success. Furthermore, Galaxian is known to be the first video game to be released with 100% of its graphics displayed in true R.B.G colour.

Galaxian differed from Space Invaders as it added even more advanced features, such as the ‘Galaxian’ (the aliens) would drop at random points of the game and bomb the ‘Galaxip’ (the ship). Although, the gameplay was still similar to its predecessor, the player controlled the Galaxip to move left and right across the bottom of the screen. However, the player was only allowed to have one shot on the screen at one time, adding a level of difficulty to the game. Again, as in Space Invaders, after having defeated one swarm of Galaxian, the player was faced with another more challenging swarm of aliens to beat.

Asteroids (1979)

Atari’s Asteroids is another renowned game of the era, and has even shown to be Atari’s best-selling game. From development, the reception of Asteroids looked promising, as Atari workers who were not associated in the development of the game would often walk by to play on early prototypes and models. This ultimately led to a second prototype being developed just for Atari staff! Upon public release, Asteroids showed immediate success. It is estimated that 70,000 units were sold and that Atari earned around $150 million in sales from the game. It has been further valued that operators earned roughly $500 million in sales from coin drops. All the more so, there are stories in which some popular video game arcade operators having to install larger coin drop boxes to hold the amount that was being spent on the machines.

The aim of Asteroids was to destroy asteroids and flying saucers through shooting at them. The player controlled a ship which had the ability to move 360 degrees, while also rotate left and right; with the further ability to fire straight ahead. Another element in the controls was that the player could send the ship into hyperspace, where the ship would disappear from the screen and reappear in a random location. However, this option could have been potentially threatening as the ship could self-destruct or appear on top of an asteroid.

Moreover, a level of complicity is added to the game as different objects had different properties when shot. A Large Asteroid, when first hit, broke apart into two medium sized asteroids. Medium Asteroids moved faster than their larger counterpart which made them more difficult to target, yet if they were hit, they would break down further into small asteroids. Small Asteroids were the smallest and fastest of their kind, though, if hit by a bullet they would vaporise. This brings us to the Large Saucers, overall, these pose a minor threat to the player however could randomly open fire. By all means, the Small Saucers were the most dangerous overall in the game, with more precision to their shots so the player was more likely to lose to these.