For retro gamers it has been a source of intrigue, with myths and urban legends surrounding it. It has inspired series like Code Monkeys to make entire episodes based on its failings. James Rolfe (better known as The Angry Video Game Nerd) has even made a film about his fear of it - the Atari 2600 cartridge of E.T.
It was one of the worst games of all time, and has been cited as one of the biggest reasons for the video game market crash of 1983. In the early ’80s, due to a video game boom and a lucrative deal with Warner Brothers, Atari was making a huge profit. With the company’s net worth around 2 billion in 1982, they seemed untouchable. However Atari’s fortunes soon turned sour. Atari was well known for making arcade ports of various titles and it was thought that their new acquisition Pac-Man would make them a lot of money. Unfortunately for Atari it under sold and was generally considered to be a disappointing port. However they had an exclusive gaming licence with Steven Spielberg to make a video game adaption of his upcoming movie E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
The advertising band wagon got rolling and things looked good.
The game however was extremely rushed to market, and the poor quality of the finished result showed. In many stores it simply would not sell. It was universally panned, and out of the 5 million copies, only 1.5 million sold. This is perhaps the greatest example of the many video games over the last few decades that attempted to cash in on the success of a popular movie, only to hastily rush out a terrible product. Late in 1983 rumors started circulating about massive trucks full of the game, which allegedly dumped their loads in the New Mexico desert, but these stories were never confirmed.
That is, until now.
Recently a documentary crew, financed by Fuel Entertainment and Xbox Entertainment Studios, found the answer that gamers had suspected all along. In a landfill in Alamogordo, hundreds of boxes were found containing Atari cartridges, including the legendary E.T game. Over 200 residents turned up to see the unearthing and some even set up makeshift gaming centers to play Atari’s greatest failure right there at the dump site.
There is a guilty pleasure in playing E.T, a game that would have easily just vanished from gaming history if this urban legend had not sprung up about its disposal. The poor graphics, un-relatable links to its source material, and plot holes (figuratively and literally) regarding its gameplay make it easy to see why this is called one of the worst games ever made. Yet for retro gamers it has been a part of our history and it is satisfying to know that the rumors were true, ending speculation that has persisted for over 30 years.