|System(s)||Arcade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64/128, Commodore VIC-20, Intellivision, Vectrex, MS-DOS, TI-99/4A, Sinclair ZX Spectrum|
|Followed by||Pole Position II|
|Twitch||Pole Position Channel|
Pole Position was, by far, the best driving game of its time. It was designed by Toru Iwatani, who also designed the Gee Bee trilogy and Pac-Man. Its graphics, sound, and driving realism outclassed even Sega's Turbo, which had been released in the previous year. The Fuji Speedway is the setting for an eight-car race with you behind the wheel of a Formula 1 racer. Your goal, as in all driving games, is simple--race around the track as fast as you can. You compete with seven other drivers, but time is your real opponent because the other drivers race like rookies. The game runs on its own dedicated hardware (a single Zilog Z80 microprocessor and two Zilog Z8002 microprocessors running at 3.072 MHz), and produces stereo sound.
The game is divided into two parts: the qualifying lap, and the big race itself. The qualifying lap is the most important part of the game, because your qualifying time will determine your starting position for the race. The time needed to qualify is determined by the game's setting (73 seconds is standard). If you do not qualify, you cannot compete in the race and must wait for the time.
Atari saw Pole Position as a wise investment to bring to the States and, along with Dig Dug, was one of the first arcade games that they licensed from Namco. Atari then ported the game to several other home systems including their own 2600 and 5200. Interestingly, Namco chose not to port this game to the Famicom as they did with many of their other early '80s arcade games, presumably because of Nintendo's own F1 Race which was clearly inspired directly by this game.