Asteroids was inspired, in a roundabout way, by the seminal Spacewar!, the first computer-based video game. In the early 1980s a stand-up arcade game version was produced as Space Wars, which included a number of optional versions and added a floating asteroid as a visual device. Asteroids is essentially a one-player version of Spacewar!, featuring the "wedge" ship from the original and promoting the asteroids to be the main opponent.
The game was conceived by Lyle Rains and programmed and designed by Ed Logg. Asteroids was a hit in the United States and became one of Atari's best selling games of all time. Atari had been in the process of releasing another vector beam game, Lunar Lander, but demand for Asteroids was so high they simply converted all production to Asteroids, even disassembling many Lunar Landers in the process. Today the Lunar Lander version is difficult to find. Asteroids was so popular that video arcade owners usually had to install larger boxes to hold all the coins this machine raked in.
One feature of the game was the ability for players to record their initials with their high scores, an innovation which is standard in arcade games to this day.