The Story of How Tomohiro Nisikado Revived the Early Coin-Op Industry and Inadvertently Helped Save Atari’s Home VCS Console

In the late 70s, PONG clones were running amok and the market was so saturated that the coin-op industry was in a real slump. The release of Space Invaders shook things up, turned the industry around, and made video games a staple of entertainment from that point forward.

In Space Panic, a very vulnerable astTo fully understand the origins of Space Invaders, some of Tomohiro Nishikado’s previous projects should be examined. His first mechanical game was Sky Fighter II, a carnival-like shooting game that used a model airplane, mirrors, and a bit of technical trickery to conjure the illusion of a plane hovering about atop a scrolling cloud backdrop. It was an impressive feat for 1971 that, at its heart, was a shooting game, as was Western Gun, another popular title he created in 1975. During the period in-between, Atari released Pong and kicked off the early video game era as video games slowly replaced traditional mechan- ical-driven fare. Pong influenced Nishikado to make his first video game, Soccer, and eventually Western Gun, which Midway altered and improved upon by introducing a microchip when they brought the game to America as Gun Fight. After seeing how integrated circuitry could leapfrog old-tech, in 1975 Nishikado re-created the Sky Fighter II combat flight simulator mechanical game as a video game using microchips, and renamed it Interceptor.

As a more seasoned video game designer, Nishikado started on his next project. The working title for the game was originally Space Monster, pulling “monster” from a chart-topping song at the time by Japanese female pop music duo Pink Lady. Since the cabinet artwork was designed during this period of development, it featured colossal human-like monsters that are absent from the actual game. Management stepped in and professed that “monster” was out, and that “invaders” were in!

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Michael Thomasson Michael Thomasson (63 Posts)

Michael Thomasson is one of the most widely respected videogame historians in the field today. He currently teaches college level videogame history, design, and graphics courses. For television, Michael conducted research for MTV's videogame related program Video MODS. In print, he authored Downright Bizarre Games, and has contributed to nearly a dozen gaming texts. Michael’s historical columns have been distributed in newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has written business plans for several vendors and managed a dozen game-related retail stores spanning three decades. Michael consults for multiple video game and computer museums and has worked on nearly a hundred game titles on Atari, Coleco, Sega and other console platforms. In 2014, The Guinness Book of World Records declared that Thomasson had “The Largest Videogame Collection” in the world. His businesses sponsor gaming tradeshows and expos across the US and Canada.  Visit