Hundreds of copies of Atari’s ET found in New Mexico desert.
If there are any UK game shops out there wondering what to do with all those shelves full of second-hand copies of FIFA 13 and Call of Duty prequels, the following story might provide inspiration.
A landfill near Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert has been dug up by construction crews – where The Verge reports that hundreds of copies of the tautologically-titled Atari game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial have been found. It seems to confirm the myth that these were buried simply as a way to get rid of the unsold bulk!
According to Howard Scott Warshaw in an interview with AV Club, Atari paid around $22 million for the rights to develop an E.T. game for Atari consoles, following previous success with Raiders of the Lost Ark. The length of time over negotiations left Warshaw with five weeks to create a game that would be ready for retail during the 1982 Christmas rush. Given two more weeks, he claimed that he could’ve done a better job, but was pleased with what he came up with given the insane schedule and the fact that he felt he was the only one who could’ve turned it around in that space of time.
Although he did achieve that particular tricky task, you can’t say he earned his stripes. Just look at the state of this:
Now, being born three years after this came out, you could say I’ve been spoiled by the finer graphics of more recent video game generations – y’know, those five-star games like Daikatana, Superman on the N64 and the 2006 Sonic reboot – but the gameplay on this game is near non-existent; I’ve had to watch more than one walkthrough before writing this just to determine what the hell is even going on. And it’s not worth putting you through so we’ll say no more – except that the title screen music is actually pretty good!
The ET game went on to achieve notoriety as one of the poorest-reviewed of all time, and actually played a part in the 1983 crash of the North American video games industry, as any old sod with an understanding of basic programming tried to get their game on the market, leading to a staggering amount of games – and even more disgruntled customers. It’s part of the reason that Nintendo came up with their Seal of Approval, which really only means “we tried not to rush the shit out of this game”.
The ET flop came hot on the heels of a Pac-Man conversion, both of which ultimately put Atari out of business. James Heller, a former manager at Atari, told Reuters that he was the one tasked with concreting over all those unsold cartridges in the New Mexico landfill – and the rest is history.