E.T. : The Death of Atari

I was recently searching through an old box of photos, when I came across the 1982 Atari game manual for E.T. I probably hadn’t seen this since I last played Atari, so it wasn’t only a nice find, but a fun experience to page through the booklet and remind myself of how cool this game was. (continue below)

ET-Atari manual

ET-Atari manual

ET-Atari manual

ET-Atari manual

ET-Atari manual

ET-Atari manual back cover

Unfortunately, the images did little to rekindle my memory. I acknowledged the fact that it has been over 20+ years since I last played an Atari game, yet I could clearly remember the many other Atari games I played as a child and how instant my recognition was of any imagery associated with them. Take for example the games Pitfall, Warlords and, of course, Pacman (shown below). One glimpse of a screen shot from any of these and I’m immediately transported back to the old gray carpeting of my living room, staring up at colored boxes on the T.V., and holding onto that joystick like it was the only thing keeping me alive.

screen shot of Atari game Pitfall
courtesy of AtariAge
screen shot of Atari Warlords game
courtesy of AtariAge
screen shot of Atari Pacman game
courtesy of AtariAge

It wasn’t until I googled ‘E.T. Atari’ that I learned why my mind draws a blank on this epic film turned video game. Apparently, it was due to Atari’s unrealistic demands to have the game ready for Christmas, which ultimately led to its demise. Below is an excerpt from Wiki:

“Though 1982 wasn’t a perfect year for Atari. At the end of the year they released E.T., a licensed game of the incredibly popular Spielberg film. The game cost around $125 million to develop, largely due to the licensing costs of the game. The game designer was Howard Scott Warshaw, who had received nothing but praise and adulation for his game Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

However, due to the amount of time that negotiations took, Warshaw was left with just 5 weeks to design the game in time for the festive period. The result: one of the worst video games ever made and one of the biggest video game commercial failures of all time. Apparently 1 million of the 5 million cartridges were sold, with rumours of the rest being buried in a New Mexico landfill.

…The result is often cited as one of the worst video games released and was one of the biggest commercial failures in video gaming history.

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