A Blast From The Past: The Asteroids Arcade Game

One of the most popular video consoles of all time is the Asteroids Arcade Game. These upright machines were popular in the days of arcades and today can fetch a serious price as collector's items. The action centers on the idea of a person taking control of a spaceship and having to shoot through an asteroid belt to arrive at the other side unscathed. As the pilot/player was progressing, asteroids of varying sizes and speeds would race toward the craft.

The console was released by Atari in 1979 and was one for the history books even then. Its popularity was solidified with sales of over 70,000 copies very early into its release. Influencing such shooting games as Gravitar and Defender, the machine is now the stuff of legends. Though it began with only the intentions of being released in an arcade type console, many developments, including home based Atari versions, were later released.

What made the arcade game particularly unique was that it was relying on physics and science to offer real world problems of speed and inertia. The ship speeds adjusted and players had to accommodate for that in their shooting. In addition to asteroids, which would have had their own trajectory and speed, flying saucers also entered the battle. They moved in different ways, were much faster, and required faster thinking to defeat.

The game consisted of a vector display that wrapped around the screen. The onscreen components included the spaceship that the player would be "sitting" in; it could rotate fully around, it could thrust forward, and fire bullets. There were differing sizes of asteroids that moved at different speeds: large, medium, and small. The large and medium sizes would require more than one hit to fully break apart. There were also different sizes of alien saucers that would approach. Their size also determined their speed, with the smallest being the most deadly.

Atari earned over $150 million in sales from the Asteroids arcade game, with another $500 million in home versions. There were different updates along the way as gaming consoles improved and it remained a popular seller throughout. In 2009, the rights of the name were sold to Universal Studies and a movie using its theme is expected to be in production soon.