Namco was quick to cash in on Ms. Pac-Man’s arcade success in the ’80s. However, due to a complicated legal situation stemming from the fact that Ms. Pac-Man wasn’t created by Namco, current publisher Bandai Namco still needs to pay an outside party that owns a stake in the character. While the company has paid to use the character in the past, more legal shenanigans have forced its hand. Now, more recent releases of games starring Ms. Pac-Man will replace her with a different version of the character called Pac-Mom.
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For now, the affected games include a rerelease of the arcade sequel Pac-Land and an upcoming collection of Pac-titles called Pac-Man Museum+. As long as Bandai Namco remains entangled with royalty rightsholders AtGames, future Pac-Man releases will likely also feature the updated version of the character. You can see the updated sprite from Pac-Land in the following tweet by Games Asylum, a site that was one of the first to notice the change in the new release.
So, AtGames owns the royalty rights to Ms. Pac-Man, so future Pac-Man games will feature Pac-Mom. This includes tomorrow’s Pac-Land re-release and next month’s Pac-Man Museum+. pic.twitter.com/Em4xTUYayX
— Games Asylum (@gamesasylum) April 6, 2022
Pac-Mom features pink shoes, pink gloves, and a wavy pink hat, a style that’s similar to the last time that Bandai Namco paired Pac-Man with an alternative female counterpart in order to sidestep these rights issues. A character named Pac-Marie was introduced in 2016 for the launch of a Pac-Man retail location in Japan. Marie shares a similar color scheme to Pac-Mom, although she trades in the hat for a blonde ponytail adorned with a pink bow.
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While the character did inspire some fan art online, Marie didn’t take off in anything beyond the store advertising, hence the introduction of another female Pac-person for these games. Time will tell if Pac-Mom can step into Ms. Pac-Man’s stilettos and get the job done, or if Bandai Namco and AtGames can finally settle this obscure but important rights issue.