Iconic video game hero Pac-Man appears to have gone through some life changes while nobody was watching – namely, a divorce from Ms. Pac-Man, his long-time partner. This development was spotted in the brand new Arcade Archives re-release of 1984 side-scroller Pac-Land, which is essentially a port of the original title with few major differences outside of a wife change.
In the original title, Pac-Man comes home to his wife and child at their idyllic homestead – with both Ms. Pac-Man and Baby Pac sporting matching red bows and boots. In the re-release, Pac-Man instead comes home to a new character called Pac-Mom, with both Pac-Mom and Baby Pac now wearing matching pink outfits.
Not much is known about Pac-Mom, but it appears she’ll be replacing Ms. Pac-Man from now on, due to an ongoing rights dispute between Bandai Namco and current Ms. Pac-Man rights holders, AtGames.
The ongoing challenges with the legal ownership of the character mean that Ms. Pac-Man has essentially been erased from Pac-Man history.
The complication lies in the fact that Ms. Pac Man is not owned by Bandai Namco. She originated in 1982 and was created by the General Computer Corporation (GCC), a group of college programmers who modded her into a version of its arcade game Crazy Otto after publisher Midway enlisted the studio to help create a fully-fledged sequel to Pac-Man.
Due to an established royalty deal with Midway, when Namco terminated its licensing deal with the publisher, GCC was still owed royalties for every use of the character. While this deal has stayed in place and worked relatively well in modern times, this changed very recently.
In 2019, AtGames launched an apparently unlicensed version of the Ms. Pac-Man retro arcade game, sparking the legal ire of Bandai Namco. After the company was sued, AtGames decided to acquire the GCC royalties arrangement, ensuring that any time the red-stilettoed characters appears, AtGames is paid for her usage.
Since this deal was finalised, Ms. Pac-Man has yet to appear in any modern Pac-Man games, indicating her time with the franchise may be completely over. In that regard, it looks a lot like Pac-Man will never be reunited with his long-time wife – a tragedy born from unfortunate real-life circumstances.
Going forward, Pac-Man will continue his adventures with the newly developed Pac-Mom by his side. You can spot her in the latest Arcade Archives release from Bandai Namco, and she’ll also appear in the upcoming Pac-Man Museum+, set to launch in May 2022.