Why did Ms. Pac-Man’s appearance change for Arcade Archives: Pac-Land?

Quick, what does Ms. Pac-Man look like? You must have imagined the red ribbon, maybe the go-go boots too. Well, this version of Ms. Pac-Man, steadily disappearing Thanks to a Byzantine dispute with Bandai Namco and AtGames, was changed in a new version of Pac country launches today – and likely in next month’s release Pac-Man Museum Plusa retro compilation that also houses Pac country.

graphic artist Nicholas Caballero from Paraguay, noted on Twitter on Wednesday that the anthropomorphic Ms. Pac-Man appears in the 1984s Pac country is instead what Bandai Namco calls Pac-Mom: She wears a pink hat, gloves and heels instead of a red bow, orange gloves and red boots. Baby Pac was pallet swapped for good measure, replacing her bow tie with a flower and removing her pacifier.

So what gives? Well, take us back to 2019 when Bandai sued Namco AtGames, the makers of throwback mini-console and arcade cabinets whose work on a 2016 Genesis/Mega Drive for Sega won them no friends. Among other things, Bandai Namco alleged that AtGames interfered in the publisher’s negotiations with the original creators of Ms. Pac-Man – a group of seven MIT classmates who called themselves General Computer Corporation – to buy out their licensing rights.

Lo and behold, AtGames itself ended up buying those royalties, meaning that if Bandai Namco released anything involving Ms. Pac-Man (or Baby Pac) in the future, it would owe AtGames arrears to the people they were now . (Note: These rights are payable whenever the work is used; Bandai Namco, as an intellectual property, still has full ownership and control over Ms. Pac-Man and can unilaterally manufacture any product including her.)

Bandai Namco accused some others of unauthorized uses of their intellectual property; AtGames said Bandai Namco is punishing it for making a private deal with rightsholders who aren’t happy that Bandai Namco isn’t doing anything with Ms. Pac-Man in it. The lawsuit was settled in November 2020but AtGames still owns the royalties to Ms. Pac-Man.

So when the Arcade Archives release a re-release of Pac country appeared on Nintendo eShop today, Pac-Mom had taken on the role.

The arcade at the Pac-Man Museum Plus with the collectible Pac-Mom figure.
Image: Bandai Namco

Pac-Mom also seems to be the version that Pac-Man Museum plus, which will start at the end of May, will be used. This anthology features 14 games from the Pac-Man franchise, dating back to the 1980 original – but in 1981 Mrs. Pac-Man is, you guessed it, not included. (Pac-Mom and the revamped Baby Pac will appear to be collectible figures that can be earned to decorate their arcade in-game, as shown in Pac-Man Museum plus‘Follower.)

There was no console re-release of Mrs. Pac-Man since the predecessor of this collection, 2014 Pac-Man Museumfor PlayStation 3, Windows PC and Xbox 360. That was two years after Bandai Namco turned down AtGames’ pitch Mrs. Pac-Man Mini-cabinet linked to allegations made in the 2019 lawsuit.

It is speculated that the publisher didn’t want to do anything for which it owed royalties, and the lack of Ms. Pac products is an indication of this. Steve Golson, one of the original designers, gave an hour-long autopsy at Mrs. Pac-Man at the 2016 Game Developers Conference, where he discussed the convoluted royalty agreement the two sides had reached.

Polygon has reached out to representatives from Bandai Namco Entertainment America and the original GCC creators for further comments.

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