Pole Position was released in November 1982 in North America by Atari under license from Namco.
This game was one of the choices presented to Bally/Midway from Namco for sub-licensing. Bally/Midway chose Mappy while Atari was left with Pole Position. Pole Position went on to become the biggest game of 1983.
20,400 units were produced by Atari (17,250 Uprights and 3,150 Cockpits).
Differences between Namco and Atari versions :
Non-Japanese versions contain an extra dip switch setting (Speed Unit) that allows the user to toggle between using the English system and the metric system to measure the distance of one lap around the track (as shown on the title screen) and the speed of the player's car (as shown on the upper-right corner of the screen during game play). The original Japanese version does not have this dip and uses the metric system only.
On the title screen, the distance of one complete lap around the track is displayed. In non-Japanese versions, if the 'Speed Unit' dip is set to using the metric system (km/h), the distance is expressed in kilometers and thousandths of a kilometer, instead of meters ('1LAP 4.359 km'). If it is set to using the English system (mph) the distance is expressed in miles and thousandths of a mile ('1LAP 2.709mi.'). The Japanese version displays this distance in meters (1LAP 4539M).
In the Atari version, at the start of the game, a blimp with the word 'Atari' carries a white banner with the words 'PREPARE TO QUALIFY' across the screen (A female announcer can be heard saying 'Prepare to qualify!' as the blimp and banner fly across the screen). In the Namco versions, a Goodyear blimp carries the message. In the world version, the message is displayed in a different font from the Atari version. In the Japanese version, the banner's message is in Japanese, and the voiceover announcer speaks in Japanese.
If the racer qualifies in non-Japanese versions, the blimp will fly across the screen again, only this time carrying new white banner with the words 'PREPARE TO RACE'; also the announcer will say, 'Great driving. You qualified to race'.
There are billboards for "Dig Dug
", and Pole Position in the Atari versions and 'Pepsi', 'Marlboro', 'Martini', and 'Champion' in all Namco versions.
When the player completes a lap, the sign above the cars at the start/finish line says "Fuji
" in the Atari version and "Namco" in all Namco versions.