The story of the Atari 2600’s doomed E.T. game is one of video game legend, well, legendary bad, that is. It’s so bad that the people who made it couldn’t sell a huge stockpile of cartridges and buried the remainder in a New Mexico landfill. A new documentary set to air on Xbox Live aims to dig up the game’s storied past, according to Wired.
Just about every gamer worth his or her virtual salt knows of E.T.’s legendary story of failure. Back in 1983, Atari tried to cash in on Steven Spielberg’s massive movie hit by rushing a game version into production. The game was so unplayable that Atari found itself with 14 truckload of unsold cartridges that they couldn’t sell so they decided to do the most sensible thing they could think of at the time: bury them in an Alamogordo landfill in the hopes that time would wash away their mistake. Not only did the cartridges become a video game legend but the landfill had to pour concrete over the cartridges to keep people from digging up a copy for themselves.
The video game industry must be full of great stories of low moments like these. Just imagine what stories they could tell us in similar documentaries. We could explore great games that failed to launch like Lucasarts‘ Grim Fandango that received glowing reviews but sold so badly that it nearly killed off the graphic adventure genre or the impressively bad fighting title Shaq Fu. Hell, the possibilities for ultra tragic story telling from the 20-year development of Duke Nukem Forever alone are staggering.