A look back at Bally Midway in 1982


Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share several posts relating to Bally Midway, one of the cornerstone manufacturers of the Golden Age of arcade videogaming.

Established in 1958, Midway Mfg. Co. began life by manufacturing and selling amusement equipment, before being purchased outright by its competitor Bally. The company created some of the best known mechanical and electro-mechanical amusement machines throughout the early to mid 70s.

Midways close relationship with Japanese manufacturers like Taito during this time is well documented. This culminated in the huge success of Space Invaders, with Midway being the exclusive manufacturer of the game that took the USA by storm in 1978. This in turn would kick-start a series of massive hits for the company during the early 80s.

Pac-Man: Midway’s 1980 runaway hit

And it is at this moment in time, that we can join Midway as they rode a huge wave of success with the release of Namco’s Pac-Man, and wildly successful follow up Ms Pac-Man.

Bally Midway was keen to remind the industry that they took their ownership of the rights to Pac-Man in the USA very seriously…..

Let’s start with some great footage from Midway’s factory floor, filmed at the height of Midway’s success, during the summer of 1982 at its headquarters in Franklin Park, Illinois. We join as Ms Pac-Man was rolling off the production lines with the company trying to keep up with the huge demand for this game.

You may have seen clips of this footage before, but here is the full version, spanning a full 15 minutes. The quality is excellent and loads of detail is shown:

Bally Midway Factory footage of the Ms Pac-Man production line

To complement the manufacturing footage, here is an in-depth interview with Bally Midway’s Vice President of Marketing Stanley Jarocki. Shot around the same time in 1982, Jarocki discusses the current video game boom, focusing on the popularity of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac Man.

Particularly interesting are Jarocki’s insights into the state of the industry, why it was so successful at that time, and he even calls out Nolan Bushnell, the man responsible for bringing video games to the public’s consciousness.

Later on, he talks about how the company was keen to grow the Pac-Man franchise, referencing how Ms Pac-Man came about (we interviewed Steve Golson a while back which is worth a listen to for more detail on this), and the need to deliver games in the future that constantly push the envelope:

The obvious reasons for success in this particular industry is to be able to offer on a continuous basis something new and something more sophisticated to the players than the last piece of equipment.

Stanley Jarocki

There’s also talk about Bally Midway’s then upcoming licence of the film Tron – clearly at the time of this interview, the game was in development, something we’ll cover in the coming weeks here on the blog.

This is a long interview, but its worth sticking with as Jarocki gives some interesting insight to the state of the nation regarding the arcade industry at this key time.

Stanley Jarocki, VP of Marketing at Bally Midway in 1982

I hope you enjoy these two videos. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more insight into Bally Midway.

Thanks for visiting this week!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Don’t sleep on Galaxian!


  2. Joseph Safago says:

    Back in the mid 1980’s the best arcade in Southern Wisconsin was named Bally’s Funway Freeway, located in Kenosha. Plenty of Midway Arcade machines were ever-present. Every so often Bally’s Funway Freeway would host cross-promotional events with Market Square Cinema, the movie theater just 30 paces away. One of their most popular promotions was for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. 100 points earned you a free ticket to the first TMNT movie (same day showing only). Bally’s had a good balance of games to redemption machines. There was just the one redemption machine – a Skill-Crane. The other machines were upright arcades, with the standard cockpit-type Pole Position and Hard Drivin’ thrown in for good measure. The most popular Midway (Williams) cab was N.A.R.C. later followed by a smattering of Mortal Kombat choices. They also had an upright Spy Hunter cabinet and the classic three-player Rampage machine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. neil1637 says:

    I love the factory floor videos, Tony. However watching it now throws up a little conflict.

    Seeing all those human hands, each completing their own part – I especially liked the wiring loom building – is so great, knowing that so many people helped build each cabinet.

    But without the boom, there is no way such employment could be sustained, and of course today, technology has taken over and machines now make machines.

    You know which I prefer, and watching these videos just makes me wish for a time machine.

    Maybe the machines could make a time machine, I mean what could go wrong, right…

    Liked by 1 person

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