Old school gamers may remember that once upon a time Atari had licensed the rights to create a video game of ‘E.T.’. An urban myth told us that it flopped so badly that the company ended up burying thousands of the carts in the desert as a way to dispose of them. Guess what! That urban myth has been confirmed! A film crew lead by director Zak Penn has been putting together a documentary titled ‘Atari: Game Over’ and this excavation was a key component to it.
While it doesn’t appear that thousands were found, there were at least a few hundred that had popped up. Roughly 200 gaming enthusiasts and local residents of New Mexico who were interested in this tory gathered early this last Saturday to watch backhoes and bulldozers dig through a concrete-covered landfill. There is nothing like a little mass destruction to try to find up to a million copies of ‘E.T. The Extraterrestrial’ which have been gone for years to gather fans together! Unfortunately for those gathered most had to leave before the discovery happened as strong winds kicked up clouds of dust and garbage.
According to Penn, “I feel pretty relieved and psyched that they actually got to see something,” when members of the production team finished sifting through the landfill. As a time consuming and dirty project, it would have been a bit much if there had been no results. When the games were found there were only a few dozen still remaining however some were able to play the game in a make-shift gaming den that had been constructed in the back of a van with a TV and a console from its release in the 80s. To further promote the event someone had shown up with a DeLorean decked out in ‘Back to the Future’ style with a life-sized ET doll.
As the game was a prolific failure and one of the last nails in Atari’s coffin,it has stood the testament of time as one of the biggest flops in gaming history. Atari gambled big when they worked out the game’s release and that gamble came up short. Of course much of the failure was from the game’s development time that ran 6 weeks instead of the usual 6 months for games at the time (to put that in perspective many cutting edge games can take over a year to develop now.) The problem with the game was a trap that would commonly pop up and take quite a while to get out of. These traps lead to frustration and a high return rate. When coupled with having created too many copies of the game to realistically sell, it ended up being the largest and final flop that would lead to Atari’s demise as a console maker.
So how bad was the gameplay and the traps? Lets take a look!
Speaking to Atari about why the company had decided to bury the games, Kristen Keller, a spokeswoman for Atari says that “nobody here has any idea what that’s about. We’re just watching like everybody else.” As the company has changed hands many times since the console flopped, there are no corporate records on why it occurred or who approved it and no one that used to work for the company has ever stepped forward to shine a light on the reasoning behind it. All we know is that it was reported in 1983 that Atari dumped 14 truckloads of unsold Atari products in the landfill and that the majority of it was from ‘E.T’.
What do you think of the great Atari landfill myth? Obviously they had too much inventory that they had to get rid of but do you think they were trying to hide what they had left as many suspected at the time or was this just the cheapest way to dispose of extra inventory that was taking up room? Share your thoughts below!