Google's Pac-Man Tribute: Bad for Business?

Pac-Man, a video game hero from the early 1980s, got a major publicity boost last weekend when Google placed a fully-functional version of the classic arcade hit on its home page. The tribute was in honor of Pac-Man's 30th anniversary.

Great, so millions of people spent their precious weekend minutes (hours?) maneuvering a maze and gobbling up pac-dots. Problem is, their Pac-Man addiction may have crossed over into the workplace too.

The RescueTime Blog did some quick calculations over the weekend to quantify just how much productivity was lost as a result of workers engaged in Pac-Man rather than their jobs. (RescueTime is a monitoring app for businesses that tracks which software and websites their employees use.)

The RescueTime folks took a random sample of its users--about 11,000 people who spent some "3 million seconds" on Google on Friday May 21, the day the playable Pac-Man logo appeared. They determined that 4.82 million hours of valuable work time were frittered away on Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.

Here's the breakdown from RescueTime's Tony Wright:

· The average user spent 36 seconds more than usual on Google.com on Friday.

· Google Pac-Man consumed 4,819,352 hours of time.

· Lost productivity totaled $120,483,800, assuming the average Google user has a cost of $25/hour.

· That $120 million is enough to pay all 19,835 Google employees for 6 weeks.

Pac-Man Procrastinators

And if all the lost, ahem, productivity wasn't bad enough, the Pac-Man play-a-thon created quite a ruckus on Friday in Mozilla's Firefox support forum. Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that many Firefox users were startled by Pac-Man's sounds and music--ostensibly emanating from the cubicles of their colleagues, who were furtively playing Pac-Man on the boss' dime.

Some Firefox users even feared they had been hit by a malware attack.

Shame on you, Google. But more importantly, the next time you decide to honor an arcade classic, could choose Centipede? I really loved that game.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com .

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