From Urban Legend To Reality - Atari's E.T. The Video Game Unearthed From Landfill
In 1982, Steven Spielberg struck gold with science-fiction film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which starred Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, and Drew Barrymore. That same year, American video game company, Atari, Inc., began developing a video game based on the film. Seemed like an easy slam dunk, but the company paid a whopping $21 million for the rights and then rushed its development (five and a half weeks) so that it would be ready for Christmas time. Just to breakeven on the rights the company had to sell 4 million copies. 5 million copies were produced and only 1.5 million were sold. Most of those 1.5 million copies that were sold, ended up being returned to the company because the quality of the game was THAT horrendous. To this day, many people contribute the game as major reason for the North American video game crash of 1983 and the demise of Atari in the gaming sector.
The Avengers and X-Men: The Last Stand screenwriter, Zak Penn, is producing a documentary about the worst video game of all time, Atari's 1983 game, E.T. The Extraterrestrial. Unsold cartridges were buried and now they have been excavated.
So, what happened to all those millions of unsold cartridges? As legend has it, in September of 1983 the company supposedly dumped 14 truckloads of discarded game cartridges into a New Mexico landfill. And now, over thirty years later, screenwriter, Zak Penn ("The Incredible Hulk") has led the search for the burial site and over the past two days has unearthed the legend.
A documentary film production company has found buried in a New Mexico landfill hundreds of the Atari "E.T." game cartridges that some call the worst video game ever made. Film director Zak Penn showed one "E.T." cartridge retrieved from the site and said that hundreds more were found in the mounds of trash and dirt scooped by a backhoe. About 200 residents and game enthusiasts gathered early Saturday in southeastern New Mexico to watch backhoes and bulldozers dig through the concrete-covered landfill in search of up to a million discarded copies of "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" that the game's maker wanted to hide forever. "I feel pretty relieved and psyched that they actually got to see something," said Penn as members of the production team sifted through the mounds of trash, pulling out boxes, games and other Atari products.
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