E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was released to cinemas in 1982. The critically acclaimed movie surpassed Star Wars to be the highest grossing film of all time until 1993’s Jurassic Park. For gamers however, its video game adaptation is more famous for being a symbol of the 1983 video game crash and a reminder for bad business practices.
The year of crap games
The E.T. video game was released in December 1982 by Atari Inc, who manufactured 5 million cartridges out of which only 1.5 million was sold. Thanks to its horrible gameplay and crap graphics, it is considered to be one of the worst video games of all time. And yes, its graphics was bashed even by 1982 standards. It was released in the holiday season and managed to climb the charts as being one of the best-selling Atari 2600 titles, but the 3.5 million unsold copies and the unusually high $20+ million licensing fee definitely didn’t help its success.
It wasn’t the only title that faced difficulties that year: 9 months earlier Atari released the 2600 port of the famous arcade game, Pac-Man. Confident that it would boost console sales they manufactured 12 million cartridges for the 10 million consoles on the market. 7 million copies were eventually sold, but because of the poor gameplay many gamers started returning them to the store.
Due to these commercial failures, the previously dynamically growing company began to wobble and was eventually sold off in 1984. They learned that you can’t treat gamers like crap with unfinished rubbish titles and can’t just cram anything down their throats and expect them to pay for it. Retailers also got more crafty, demanding return policies for unsold products, not wanting to take the hit for unfair bundle deals full of worthless, unsellable games.
As a result of all this, by September 1983 Atari amassed a huge amount of worthless digital junk in their warehouse in El Paso, Texas. They filled several trucks and took them to a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where it was buried. They even had to pour concrete over it to stop kids digging and looting the grave.
Despite it was reported from several sources, it is still somewhat of an urban legend, and nobody knows for sure what’s actually down there. Apart from unsold Pac-Man and E.T. cartridges, there are probably other games and unsold console systems buried as well.
In 2013 Fuel Entertainment acquired the rights to excavate the site. After some legal troubles were settled, it is now official that excavation will take place on 26th April 2014 between 9:30am and 7:30pm. It is a public event and a documentary will be shot to reveal the details of Atari’s burial.
Make sure you don’t miss the reports.
UPDATE: It is indeed confirmed, not a big surprise though.