Though simplistic by today's standards, it was one of the forerunners of modern video gaming and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry. When first released, Space Invaders was very successful and popular. Following its release, the game caused a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins in Japan, and by 2007 had earned Taito US$500 million in revenue. Guinness World Records ranks it the top arcade game.
The game has been the inspiration for other video games, re-released on numerous platforms, and led to several sequels. The 1980 Atari 2600 version quadrupled the system's sales and became the first "killer app" for video game consoles. Space Invaders has been referenced and parodied in multiple television shows, and been a part of several video game and cultural exhibitions. The pixelated enemy alien has become a media icon representing video games as a whole.
The aliens attempt to destroy the cannon by firing at it while they are approaching the bottom of the screen. If they reach the bottom, the alien invasion is successful and the game ends. A special "mystery ship" will sometimes move across the top of the screen and will award bonus points if destroyed. The laser cannon is partially protected by several stationary defense bunkers—the number varies by version—that are gradually destroyed by alien fire.
Because microcomputers in Japan were not powerful enough at the time to perform the complex tasks involved in designing and programming Space Invaders, Nishikado had to design his own custom hardware and development tools for the game. The game featured raster graphics on a CRT monitor, monaural sound generated by analogue circuitry, and used an Intel 8080 central processing unit. Despite the specially developed hardware, Nishikado was unable to program the game as he wanted—the Control Program board was not powerful enough to display the graphics in color or move the enemies faster—and considered the development of the hardware the most difficult part of the whole process. Space Invaders was first released in a cocktail-table format with black and white graphics. The Western release by Midway was in an upright cabinet format, and used strips of orange and green cellophane over the screen to simulate color graphics. The graphics were reflected onto a painted backdrop of a moon against a space background. Later Japanese releases also used colored cellophane. The cabinet artwork featured large, humanoid monsters not present in the game. Nishikado attributes this to the artist basing the designs on the original title, Space Monsters, rather than referring to the in-game graphics.
Space Invaders is considered one of the most successful arcade shooting games. After the first few months following its release in Japan, the game became very popular. Specialty arcades opened with nothing but Space Invaders cabinets, and Taito produced 100,000 arcade machines for the Japanese market over the next few years. 60,000 machines were sold in United States. A shortage of 100-yen coins in Japan was attributed to the game, and this led to an increase in production of these coins. By 2007, it had generated almost US$500 million in revenue. The 1980 Atari 2600 version was the first official licensing of an arcade game and became the first "killer app" for video game consoles by quadrupling the system's sales.
Legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto considers Space Invaders a game that revolutionized the video game industry; he was never interested in video games before seeing it. Several publications attribute the expansion of the video game industry from a novelty into a global industry to the success of the game. Edge attributes the shift of video games from bars and arcades to more mainstream locations like restaurants and department stores to Space Invaders. According to The Observer, the home console versions were popular and encouraged users to learn programming; many who later became industry leaders. 1UP.com stated that Space Invaders showed that video games could compete against the major entertainment media at the time—movies, music, and television. IGN attributes the launch of the arcade phenomenon in North America in part to Space Invaders. Game Informer considers it, along with Pac-Man, one of the most popular arcade games that tapped into popular culture and generated excitement during the golden age of arcades. In 2007, Guinness World Records listed it as the top-rated arcade game, and IGN listed it as one of the "Top 10 Most Influential Games".
As one of the earliest shooting games, it set precedents and helped pave the way for future titles and for the shooting genre. Space Invaders was the first video game to have an intermission between gameplay, and to popularize the concept of achieving a high score. IGN lists it as the number eight "classic shoot 'em up". Space Invaders has inspired the development of several games, and led to multiple sequels and rereleases. Arcade games, like Namco's Galaxian and Galaga, were modeled after Space Invaderss gameplay and design. In 2002, Taito released Space Raiders, a third-person shooter reminiscent of Space Invaders.
Taito has released several arcade sequels that built upon the basic design of the original. The first was Space Invaders Part II in 1980; it featured color graphics and new gameplay elements. This version was released in the United States as Deluxe Space Invaders (also known as Space Invaders Deluxe), but featured a different graphical color scheme and a lunar-city background. Another arcade sequel, titled Space Invaders II, was released exclusively in the United States. It was in a cocktail-table format and featured a competitive two-player mode. During the summer of 1985, Return of the Invaders was released with updated color graphics, and more complex movements and attack patterns for the aliens. Subsequent arcade sequels included Super Space Invaders '91, Space Invaders DX, and Space Invaders 95. Each game introduced minor gameplay additions to the original design.
The game and its related games have been included in video game compilation titles. Space Invaders Anniversary was released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2 and included nine Space Invader variants. A similar title for the PlayStation Portable, Space Invaders Pocket, was released in 2005. Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II and Return of the Invaders are included in Taito Legends, a compilation of Taito's classic arcade games released in 2005 on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC. Space Invaders DX and Space Invaders 95 were included in Taito Legends 2, a sequel compilation released in 2006.
In 2006, the game was one of several video game related media selected to represent Japan as part of a project compiled by Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs. In the same year, Space Invaders was included in the London Science Museum's Game On exhibition meant to showcase the various aspects of video game history, development, and culture. At the Belluard Bollwerk International 2006 festival in Fribourg, Switzerland, Guillaume Reymond created a three minute video recreation of a game of Space Invaders as part of the "Gameover" project using humans as pixels. The GH ART exhibit at the 2008 Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany included an art game, Invaders!, based on Space Invaderss gameplay. The creator later asked for the game to be removed from the exhibit following criticism of elements based on the September 11, 2001 attacks.