In 1983, Cinematronics released Dragon's Lair, the first laser-disc arcade game. The new technology of Dragon's Lair set it apart from any other video game of the time. The game's cartoon-like graphics made it an instant hit that people not only enjoyed playing, but also watching. Dragon's Lair joins Pong and Pac-Man as the only three video games on permanent display at the Smithsonian.
At the Amusement and Music Operators Association show of 1982, Bally exhibited Astron Belt, a laser-disc game. Astron Belt may have been the first laser-disc game created, but technical delays prevented the game from being released in a timely manner. Rick Dyer- founder of Advanced Microcomputer Systems- saw the potential in the laser-disc graphics of Astron Belt for a game he had been working on: Dragon's Lair. In less than a year, Dyer worked with former Disney animator Don Bluth to transform Dragon's Lair into a fully-animated arcade game. By beating Astron Belt to the market, Dragon's Lair gained all the hype of the new laser-disc technology. Dragon's Lair was an instant hit with over 16, 000 units sold and a profit of over $32 million dollars by the beginning of 1984.
Playing Dragon's Lair is an experience unlike any other video game. Players act as Dirk the Daring, a brave, but unintelligent knight. Dirk must rescue the beautiful Princess Daphne from the dragon's lair of an evil wizard's castle. As Dirk fights his way through a series of obstacles within and around Mordread's castle, players direct Dirk's decisions rather than control his actions. A series of movie-like animations play to show if you have made the right decision, resulting in continued play, or wrong decision, resulting in Dirk's often comical death. Crowds flocking to Dragon's Lair machines were not only gamers eager to play the game, but also onlookers content to simply watch the fantastical animations.
Dragon's Lair was the last great game before the video game industry crashed in 1984. Other laser-disc games were released, but none came near the success of Dragon's Lair. Development of a Dragon's Lair sequel- Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp- began soon after the release of the original, but its release was delayed until 1991 due to legal battles. Two other sequels- Dragon's Lair III: the Curse of Mordread and Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair- have also been produced.