The recent Arcade Archives re-release of Pac-Land has seemingly replaced Ms Pac-Man with a new character, highlighting the ongoing issues with the Ms Pac-Man copyright.
Twitter user Nick C (as reported by VGC) was first to spot the swap. Ms Pac-Man’s appearance in Pac-Land has been altered to replace the red boots and bow with a pink hat and shoes. The new sprite is called “Pac-Mom” and was apparently added at the request of Bandai Namco.
Ms Pac-Man has been the center of a longstanding legal dispute between Bandai Namco and General Computer Corporation (GCC). Ms Pac-Man the arcade game was originally a modded version of Pac-Man called Crazy Otto made by GCC. Midway, the original publisher of Pac-Man in North America purchased the rights to Crazy Otto and released Ms Pac-Man in 1982 as the sequel to Pac-Man–a sequel that Namco never authorized. Ms Pac-Man went on to become a huge success for Midway and a legal nightmare for Bandai Namco, who argued that Midway never owned the copyright to Pac-Man and any derivative works were the legal property of the original copyright holder.
That legal dispute apparently ended in 2008 with a settlement that allowed Bandai Namco to claim ownership of the copyright and intellectual property but also still paid GCC royalties. This tenuous agreement apparently left some royalty rights unresolved, which resulted in another dispute arising in 2019 when AtGames release a Ms Pac-Man mini arcade cabinet. Once again, Bandai Namco never authorized the cabinet and sued for copyright infringement. AtGames countered that it had purchased the royalty rights from GCC and therefore didn’t need Bandai Namco’s permission to publish the Ms Pac-Man cabinet.
Once again, the legal dispute ended in a settlement of which we don’t know the details. However, ever since then, Bandai Namco has avoided Ms Pac-Man in all its classic arcade re-releases, and this latest re-release is a sure sign that the upcoming Pac-Man Museum+ collection will likewise avoid Ms Pac-Man.
Pac-Man Museum+ was first announced last year as a collection of 14 classic Pac-Man games for Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Notably, Ms Pac-Man is not one of the 14 games, but Pac-Land is. It seems likely then that Pac-Land in Pac-Man Museum+ will feature the same Pac-Mom character that’s in the Arcade Archives port.
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