Urban legend has it that Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is the worst video game ever created. But did Atari really bury thousands of cartridges that it couldn’t sell?
Documentary filmmakers dug up a stash of Atari games, including E.T., last weekend in a landfill in New Mexico.
“Urban legend CONFIRMED,” tweeted Larry Hryb, a creator of Microsoft’s Xbox. Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios is backing the documentary (working title: “Atari: Game Over,” according to CNN.)
But while it’s clear that the video game version of the hit alien movie was a complete flop (it was rushed to market in time for Christmas and never came close to projected sales), it’s unclear why Atari was dumping video games. E.T. was just one of 20 game cartridges found during the dig, Atari historian Curt Vendel told CNN. The company was unraveling in 1983, and it may have been discarding games as a write-off, Vendel said.
Was the game really that bad? It can still be found on eBay, usually for under $5 (1982 retail price: $29.99).
“I don’t really believe it’s one of the worst games ever, but I really like it when people identify it that way,” Howard Scott Warshaw, the game’s creator, told CNN. “I’ve been carrying this thing, the theoretically worst video game of all time, for 30 years now. It was a game that was done in five weeks. It was a very brief development. I did the best that I could, and that’s OK.”
To his credit, Warshaw also made one of Atari’s best-rated games, Yars’ Revenge. “I have the greatest range of any game designer in history.”