Night Driver was released in October 1976.
Also released as "Night Driver [Highway sitdown model]
This game was first released by a small company named Micronetics and later picked up by Atari. Night Driver was the first 'first-person' driving game (only Atari's second sitdown, "Hi-Way
" was the first). 2,100 units were produced.
After a nearly 50-year run, the mid-1970s video games like Night Driver spelled the end of the electro-mechanical arcade games (such as "Killer Shark
" seen in the movie Jaws). Video games would spawn a nation-wide phenomenon which has gone on to this day.
Night Driver was one of many mid-1970's Atari games such as "Starship 1
", "Sprint 2
" and "Drag Race
" which were often found at carnivals and bowling alleys. Kids would flock to these establishments just to get an opportunity to play the games rather than the primary source of entertainment they offered. When the 80's arrived, video games could be found everywhere including grocery stores and kids didn't have to go very far to play their favorite game.
From Dave Shepperd : "This was the second game I programmed while at Atari. I was given a piece of paper with a picture of a game cabinet that had a small portion of the screen visible. I don't recall if it was an actual flyer for the game or simply a Xerox of the front page of the flyer. I recall it being German or maybe I was just told it was a German game. I never saw the game play nor did I know what scoring was used on that game, only that there were a few little white squares showing. With that germ of an idea, out popped Nite Driver. I have fond memories of spending time watching the white lines in the street and fence posts whiz by my car as I drove to and from work trying to work out in my mind's eye what kind of math I can use to make little squares on a TV kind of do the same thing."
A Night Driver unit appears in the 1978 movie 'Dawn of the Dead'.