Pole Position is an arcade racing video game which was released by Namco in 1982 and licensed to Atari, Inc. for US manufacture and distribution, running on the Namco Pole Position arcade system board. The game was designed by T?ru Iwatani, who had also designed the Gee Bee games and Pac-Man. It was the most popular coin-op arcade game of 1983. Pole Position was released in two configurations: a standard upright cabinet, and an environmental/cockpit cabinet. Both versions feature a steering wheel and a gear shifter for low and high gears, but the environmental/cockpit cabinet featured both an accelerator and a brake pedal, while the standard upright one only featured an accelerator pedal.
By 1983, it had become the highest-grossing arcade game that year in North America, where it had sold over 21,000 machines for $61 million ($149 million in 2015), along with $450 ($1100 in 2015) weekly revenues per machine. It was the most successful racing game of the classic era, spawning ports, sequels, and a Saturday morning cartoon. The game established the conventions of the racing game genre and its success inspired numerous imitators. Pole Position is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time and “arguably the most important racing game ever made.”
Pole Position was the first racing video game to feature a track based on a real racing circuit. It was also the first game to feature a qualifying lap, requiring the player to complete a time trial before they can compete in Grand Prix races. Once the player has qualified, they must complete the race in the time allowed, avoiding collisions with CPU-controlled opponents and billboards along the sides of the track. The game’s publisher Atari publicized the game for its “unbelievable driving realism” in providing a Formula 1 experience behind a racing wheel. The game’s graphics featured full-color landscapes with scaling sprites, including race cars and other signs, and a pseudo-3D, third-person, rear perspective view of the track, with its vanishing point swaying side to side as the player approaches corners, accurately simulating forward movement into the distance
For manufacture and distribution in the United States, Namco approached Bally Midway with a choice of two games in 1982. Bally Midway chose Mappy while Atari was left to publish Pole Position, which turned out to be the most popular game of 1983.