Video Game Archeology

Atari’s unsuccessful E.T. is considered by some the worst video game ever:

Atari reportedly ordered 5 million copies of E.T. ahead of the title’s release but wound up selling just 1.5 million. What’s more, a large number of purchased copies were reportedly returned by customers frustrated with the game’s notoriously poor graphics, confusing gameplay, and all-around awfulness.

According to legend the unsold millions of cartridges were chucked in a landfill — and a film-maker is planning to dig them up:

The Fuel entertainment company plans to sift through a New Mexico landfill in search of Atari video games. According ancient legend, that’s where Atari dumped millions of copies of “E.T.” The movie-based video game did not sell well in 1982. But now folks are ready to pay for Atari’s remains.

But an Atari historian says there’s no secret to discover:

Marty Goldberg, co-author of Atari Inc.: Business is Fun, thinks the treasure hunt being conducted by Fuel Industries is a “non-issue publicity stunt.” …

“There were never thousands of E.T. games buried in Alamogordo, that’s a myth that sprung up later and was also never once mentioned by the actual press articles of the time. The dump there was simply a clearing out of Atari’s Texas manufacturing plant as it transitioned to automated production methods and a focus on personal computer manufacturing. It had previously been one of the main plants for manufacturing of game cartridges and other hardware, and game manufacturing was being moved overseas to China,” Goldberg said.

“As part of the transition, the unused cartridge stock of a group of titles (not just E.T.), console parts, and computer parts were all dumped there in New Mexico. It was covered in detail by the Alamogordo press at the time, and is just such a non-mystery that I’m surprised by all this.”

I remember nothing about the game though it’s likely I tried it at least once – Bruce and Elayne Pelz used to buy all the Atari games and let party guests play to their heart’s content. And it was based on an sf movie, after all.

One thought on “Video Game Archeology

  1. Video Games have websites devoted to bad games–and one of the worst cited was a SUPERMAN game. An Atari 2600 series, “with pixels so large the characters seem to be stacks of boxes”. which was released after the opening of the initial Christopher Reeve film.

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