Original Space Invaders Arcade Machines

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Original Space Invaders Arcade Machine Buying Guide:

  This guide is intended to clear up some collecting specifics about the grandaddy of video arcade games - Space Invaders, from a UK perspective. It is by no means definitive - it is not intended to be, but is just a taster of writings to come...

  Space Invaders was designed and made in late 1978 by Taito, a Japanese manufacturer, and was an overnight success causing (what a lot of people will repeat to you) a minor 100yen coin shortage in Japan around the time it attained universal popularity.
Taito did not have adequate production/distribution/marketing resources in the United States to even venture into selling the game there themselves, and therefore they licensed the game to Midway Mfg. Co. not long after... Midway produced everything themselves, and already had a gigantic operation making/selling/distributing arcade games, and were an ideal manufacturer to take up the task. Taito upright machines as a result are very rare in the States, Taito cocktails are just uncommon.

  Here in the UK, Taito had an established sales and distribution network and were therefore able to sell their own machines to the UK market. Midway also had their own sales/distributing network in the UK, and hence were able to sell 'their' (licensed) machines to the UK market. So what we end up with in the UK is a real hotch-potch of Midway _and_ Taito machines, with some exceptions explained below.

So, thats the history bit out of the way, but you are probably more concerned with knowing about how to buy the real thing, and have that piece of history in your home. Because Space Invaders was so popular, and became a worldwide hit, the number of machines produced was staggering. Don't ever let anybody tell you that Space Invaders is RARE! because it isn't. If nearly everyone you speak to remembers seeing one in their local pub, that means one machine per pub in the land... they were everywhere weren't they? so don't you think its quite possible that even if a small percentage of those survive to this day, that still numbers quite a lot! Space Invaders is highly desirable, this is true, but it isn't rare by any stretch of the imagination. What is actually rare, is to find nice examples that have been looked after and don't show many signs of the ravages of arcade use. Beaten up, used condition machines are very easy to find, but examples that show little sign of wear are very hard to find indeed. Be aware that reproduction artwork has been around for at least ten years for the most commonly worn items, ie control panels. This means that machines that had reproduction artwork fitted long ago, through use, might actually look more authentic because they are slightly worn. There are ways of telling reproduction panels from real ones, but that is beyond the scope of this document right now. This is very unstable territory when you start to talk about conditions, as everyones opinions vary, and most people will not have seen more than a few to base their description upon, somebody looking at a machine and simply seeing that it still has the right control panel, marquee/bezel/coin door/sideart might think that this actually the best machine ever, if all they usually see is converted cabinets and jamma stuff. To the more discerning eye, you need to know what constitutes a good from a bad condition piece of the machine, I suppose you can only get this from seeing a large number, over a number of years to make any decision. I could go into details here, but quite frankly you'd get bored after a short while.

Cabinets Produced by Taito:

  • Space Invaders - Full-size Upright [1978-1979] - (black and white reflected monitor with colour strip overlays) [1]
  • Space Invaders T.T - Cocktail  [1978-1979] - (black and white monitor with colour overlay) [1]
  • Space Invaders T.T Color - Cocktail [1978-1979] - (colour monitor) [1]
  • Space Invaders Part II - Full-size Upright [1979] - (black and white reflected monitor with colour strip overlays) [2]
  • Space Invaders Part II -  Full-size Upright [1979-1981] - (colour monitor) [2]
  • Space Invaders Part II T.T - Cocktail [1979-1981] - (colour monitor) [2]

Cabinets Produced by Midway:

  • Space Invaders - Full-size Upright [1978-1980] - (black and white reflected monitor with colour strip overlays) [1]
  • Space Invaders Cocktail - Cocktail [1979-1980] - (black and white monitor with colour strip overlays) [1]
  • Deluxe Space Invaders - Full-size Upright [1980-1981] - (black / white reflected monitor with colour strip overlays) [2]
  • Deluxe Space Invaders Cocktail - cocktail [1980-1981] - (black and white monitor with colour strip overlays) [2]
(notes : All years are approximate, i'm not going to argue with you about production/distribution dates and how they differed/overlapped, they are a guide)

So, anyone selling a space invaders machine will probably default to the very first, and earliest date that they can, because from what little research they have done they only go for the first date they see. It also sounds better for their sale, this is a very common practise, whether it is intentional or not. You will find a lot of people describing a Space Invaders Part II as a 'Space Invaders' when in fact the cabinets, artwork, and more importantly gameplay do differ greatly between the two. Saying its an original Space Invaders (they think) will net them more bidders.

The Actual Games :

There are two main versions of the game of Space Invaders, there is the original game -Space Invaders and there is Space Invaders Part II. With all the cabinet variations and names listed above, it can get quite confusing, but there really are only two games :-) I have put the game type in brackets at the end of the description above so you will know which game is which, the former being [1] and the latter being [2]. Midway had to go and confuse things by using 'Deluxe' instead of 'Part II' on the cabinet artwork, but the actual game screens themselves still say 'Part II' because they never changed that bit.

Availability:

  Here is another contentious issue, which i will try and address as diplomatically as possible. There are always exceptions to the rule, and strange things do turn up from time to time that you never thought were around. This section should help you understand things that I know to be true as seen on ebay, my own (independant of the internet) research and from frequenting the arcade collecting scene since 1997. When I list the models below, i am referring to complete, unhacked, not-messed-around-with machines, in 'as found' condition, not cobbled together with parts from a restoration.
  • Taito Space Invaders upright - very common
  • Taito Space Invaders T.T cocktail - common.
  • Taito Space Invaders T.T color - uncommon
  • Taito Space Invaders Part II - Upright (black / white monitor) - uncommon
  • Taito Space Invaders Part II - Upright (colour monitor) - uncommon
  • Taito Space Invaders Part II T.T - Cocktail - very common
  • Midway Space Invaders - Upright - very common
  • Midway Space Invaders Cocktail - very uncommon, not distributed in the uk, but i've seen a few recent imports.
  • Midway Deluxe Space Invaders  Upright - very very uncommon, not distributed in the uk.
  • Midway Deluxe Space Invaders Cocktail - rare, not distributed in the uk.

Remember! RARE does not mean worth loads of money!

In fact its quite the opposite, the rarer a variation of something common (like Space Invaders) is, the less it will bring on an open market like ebay. Everyone seems to want the real thing (understandably) not a later variation that is a 'curiosity' more than anything else.

As a general rule, all Taito machines came with Japanese artwork/paperwork/instructions unless Taito had sufficient stocks and time to change this stuff over. It appears that at least half of the time, they didn't bother because large operators knew that their customers were already familiar with the format and didn't need instructing. They would rather get the machine onto a site and taking money than waiting for replacement art/instructions. Taito would import machines en-masse straight from Japan, and hence these machines all came through with Japanese artwork. If you see a machine that has Japanese artwork, its actually quite normal. Taito actually struggled to supply the demand for machines in the UK, and it is known that they actually bought some machines off of Midway who could supply ready-built machines to fill the gap in Taito's own supply-chain. Some of these machines even had Taito badges on the backs, but for the most part they went out to distributers as-is. It is also a common thing to find Midway pcbs inside Taito upright machines, this is again because Midway was able to produce pcbs in greater numbers than taito could, with the licensing agreement, taito only had to lean on Midway to get some of their pcbs shipped over.

There is plenty more i could go on with about artwork/pcb/cabinet differences, but i think i've said enough for the purposes of getting you a head start with buying machines on ebay, so have fun..

Written on a rainy morning 26/06/06 by Andy Welburn

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