Hall of Fame Inductee
Original Release: 1984 (Arcade)
Designers: Carl Bedard, John Salwitz, Dave Ralston, Russel Dawe
Developed by: Atari
Published by: Atari
It could have been the superior graphics or the fact that the main character had characteristics that were similar to the people playing the game (during their adolescence), however, Atari’s Paperboy probably achieved its great success because of its input interface. Instead of joysticks or buttons on a console, the game was controlled with a pair of handlebars. Before arcade games began to rely on gimmicky input devices to survive, Paperboy‘s handlebars were something special. The game itself was something exceptional because it looked great and was fun to play. There’s good reason why this game was ported to practically every home console and computer system during the 80s.
The player plays the game as a paperboy. The goal is to bike along a neighbourhood during each day of the week and deliver newspapers. Deliver papers to the right houses and vandalise the houses that don’t have a subscription for points. Players need to keep their eyes on the road as crashing will cause the paperboy to lose a life. Once all the lives are gone, it’s game over. The point of the game is to gain the highest score after a week of delivery.
The game wasn’t perfect. Despite the fact that the game had interesting gameplay and eye-catching graphics, the developers have been open to criticizing their own project. Dave Ralston was not a fan of the collision-detection in the game as he felt it was too "unforgiving". He also didn’t care for the training levels (which was a component he was responsible for) as the whole module felt unnecessary. However, these observations were made well after the game had come and gone from arcades. Most games from Paperboy‘s era were known for unforgiving and stiff controls. When it comes down to it, the criticisms against Paperboy could be made about most games from the era. That’s just how games were programmed back then.
Paperboy was still wildly successful despite its control issues and its steep difficulty. It was ported to all the major console and computer platforms throughout the 80s. In fact, the game also saw a release on 16-bit hardware with a Sega Genesis port. Even with the hardware upgrade, this is one of the least remembered versions as the PC, Apple II, and Sega Master System versions were considered the better home versions. A sequel was made in 1991 that bypassed the arcade and was strictly a home release. Like the original, Paperboy 2 was released on most major consoles and computer systems at the time. Again, the PC version was the best version of the bunch. The Nintendo 64 saw its own version of the game released in 1999 simply titled Paperboy. However, despite being the most graphically advanced version to date, it failed to impress.
The game has been able to maintain a cult following despite the fact that there have only been three games in the entire franchise in almost thirty years. This is thanks mostly to the fact that Paperboy was such a hugely successful game back in the 80s as well as the fact that the original game has been made available on multiple compilations throughout the years. The game was included as part of the Midway Arcade Treasures collection which was released on the Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, Microsoft Xbox, and the PC. The game has also seen releases on various mobile phone platforms and an Xbox 360 Arcade release as well. The future for the series is in doubt since Midway, the licensing owner of the intellectual property Paperboy, has gone out of business and its assets are split up. In fact, Paperboy was removed from the Xbox Live service in February 2010 due to licensing issues.
Paperboy was a great arcade game but, unfortunately, its future is in doubt. It wouldn’t be the first arcade game that’s part of this Hall of Fame to have bitten the dust and live on through collectors and obscure compilation discs. It won’t be the last one either. For those who were lucky to play with the original arcade unit with its unique handlebars, they most likely have fond memories of the system. Even for those who only played the game on a home console or computer, they most likely had a fun time with it, too.