It’s 1979 and US-based Williams Electronics switches its focus on building pinball machines to the burgeoning arcade video game industry.
With a team headed up by engineer Eugene Jarvis, by 1980 the company has developed an arcade sidescroller called Defender. Capitalising on the popularity of space in the early ‘80s, the team use this theme and implement a number of new features in the game including the ability to flip the spaceship in the opposite direction at a touch of a button.
Confident in the title, Jarvis takes Defender to the Amusement & Music Operators Association trade show in November 1980. However, he receives a lukewarm reception and puts it down to the game’s extreme difficulty level. Undeterred, Williams releases the game the following year.
Defender becomes an immediate arcade hit. Recognised as one of the most difficult games to feature in the arcade, players flock to the challenge of its complex gameplay. It becomes one of the few arcade games to gross over US $1 billion.