Pole Position was released in July 1982 outside of North America.
When Pole Position was introduced, players lined up in arcades around the world to grip the steering wheel and stomp on the gas pedal of a driving game so realistic that the players -- just like their cars -- were swerving around the corners. Pole Position was a 14-carat contribution to the golden age of video games. It started the trend for photo-realism in video game graphics. In addition to great graphics, it had great game play and it was a huge success, dominating game charts for almost about two years.
Pole Position was the first driving game to be based on a real circuit. The action takes place at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The snow-capped Mt. Fuji appears in the background.
A place in video game history : "Pole Position stands out as the racing game that really appealed to the general public," said Chris Lindsey, director of the National Video Game and Coin-Op Museum in St. Louis. "It went into arcades across the nation, where it can still be found. Pole Position machines were placed everywhere -- even in gas stations!". The popularity of Pole Position was based on its realism. Players felt as if they were actually in the driver's seat. "Racing games before Pole Position tended to have a top-down perspective in which you floated over the course, which wasn't terribly realistic," Lindsey said. "Pole Position's eye-level point of view gave it a great deal of realism, and this point of view became a standard for racing games that followed. In addition, it provided a lot of peripheral cues. You saw lots of things zipping by on the side of the screen and this really added to the excitement of the game. Pole Position also had great sound. You could hear the gears winding out in the stretches. As you zipped by another car, you could hear that car's engine. All of these details added to the overall effect. Pole Position was, and still is, an awfully nice game."
The great 25-cent escape : Chris Lindsey believes that a big reason why Pole Position has remained such a timeless classic is that it has always appealed to women, in addition to men. "I think there are quite a few game developers who would like to figure out why some games appeal to females," Lindsey said. "Perhaps this is just pop psychology, but I've seen two types of games women will take to: racing games, and games in which the character, or your representation on screen, is doing something besides destroying bad guys. I don't know if that's the correct way to describe it, but that is what I've seen. I've had occasion to work in different types of entertainment facilities, large and small, very modern and, of course, the museum. Without fail I see women take to 'Pac-Man', and I see them take to racing games, almost regardless of what the racing game is."
Lindsey said the comparative lack of violence in Pole Position and other racing games might explain their popularity with women -- as well as with men. "I think violence in games is fairly thoughtless for men, and for some women, the violence in a video game may stick out," Lindsey said. "Violence in gaming is not an experience that most people seek even though they like video games. When those people find games that are engaging, and that offer outstanding game play, there is a desire on their part to dive into it. These racing games really offer that."
Namco notes : The engineers who created Pole Position knew they had created something special when a steering wheel was first connected to the prototype game in their lab. Later, when Pole Position was released, engineers visiting the arcades found that the waiting lines were so long that they curled back and forth within the arcade and then extended out the door.
Pole Position is widely cursed by collectors as having the worst hardware design of any arcade game released in the 1980s. Internal documents that have recently surfaced bear this fact out. The circuit board underwent a large number of modifications and design changes that, while finally allowing the game to function, made the boards fragile. Proof can be found by the piles of Pole Position video PCBs with burnt edge connectors sitting on collectors' workbenches. Working replacement Pole Position PCBs are very hard to find these days, and almost all of the known repair shops won't even look at them, much less attempt to fix them.
Les Lagier holds the official record for this game with 67,310 points.
A Pole Position cockpit model appears in the 1983 movie 'Joysticks'.
A Pole Position upright model appears in the Judas Priest music video 'Freewheel Burning'. The gameplay shows the head of Rob Halford (lead singer) in the player's car.