Xbox digs up ET the Extra-Terrestrial videogame

The dreaded movie tie-in games have always been enough to strike fear into any gamer, as the overwhelming majority of these cheap cash-ins are a perfect example of everything that is bad about videogames, with the obvious exception of GoldenEye 007, of course.

Even if you succumb to the glossy adverts of a game spin-off from a movie, the chances are it would just end up traded-in, sold on eBay or handed over to a poor sibling, but over 30 years ago when Atari accounted for 80% of the market, film director Steven Spielberg made a last minute request to the developer six weeks after the release of the ET movie to create a shameless cash-in with a videogame.

Speilberg knew an opportunity when he saw one and was already impressed with the previous Atari game for Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the manic rush to create a movie tie-in game resulted in an abomination of a game that was virtually unplayable.

Atari purchased the rights from director Steven Spielberg and Universal for $22m so that the masses could enjoy the latest gaming technology on the beautiful Atari 2600 Console with the fondly remembered wood grain finish.

The aim was simply to put pieces of a phone together whilst wandering aimlessly so you can phone home, but after awful reviews and even worse sales figures it eventually led to the infamous videogames crash that would then go on to kill off Atari in 1984.

According to Mashable, Atari produced around five million E.T. game cartridges, but 3.5 million of these were sent back as either unsold inventory or customer returns. This led to internet legend and gaming folklore as the New York Times reported that Atari had as dumped 14 truckloads of discarded game cartridges and other computer equipment at the city landfill in Alamogordo, N.M.

Videogame pioneer Howard Scott Warshaw, responsible for classics Yars’ Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark along with the videogame adaptation of E.T., believed this to be nothing more than urban legend in an interview with A.V. Club

However, we can finally lay this one to rest as Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios have successfully dug up the infamous E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial games from a New Mexico landfill on Saturday along with classics Centipede, Space Invaders, and Asteroids. Prompting Major Nelson to proudly tweet about his discovery.

The new documentary is part of a series Xbox is producing with Fuel Entertainment and Lightbox called Signal to Noise that will stream on Xbox Live this year. With Atari: Game Over being the first episode of the series which also has Simon Chinn (Searching for Sugar Man) as the executive producer.

Sometimes, the truth really is stranger than fiction and this wonderful tale is a fascinating story of how even the worst game ever will come back to haunt you. In gaming there really is no such thing as Game Over

About the author

Neil Hughes

My gaming journey began as an infant playing Pong, followed by an Atari 2600 with a beautiful wooden finish. Over the years, I progressed onto a Commodore 64, BBC B and my beloved Amiga 600 before entering the golden console years. It seems that if you write with an opinion criticising any platform you are now instantly labelled a fan-boy but this ageing gamer loves the PS4, Xbox One and Steam all for different reasons but if I see something I don't like, I might write about it...
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