E.T. and the Death of Atari


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Atari 2600 game console

Michael Jackson and ET

ET screen shot 1

ET screen shot 2

Last week I mentioned how E.T. buried The Thing at the box office and set the stage for formulaic Hollywood blockbusters, including the many clones and knock-offs.  But the E.T. bandwagon was getting full by the time Atari decided to get in on the action.

Atari was most likely hungry for large Christmas sales and eager to cash in on the franchise when they made their less-than-brilliant decision to give developer Howard Scott Warshaw six weeks to develop the game. The result was a game considered then and today to be one of worst games ever produced. Its meaningless plot and horrible graphics surely support this theory.

It’s rumored that an unprecedented amount of  copies of the game were returned, and by the time Atari scrapped its millions of unsold cartridges, it was too late. The damage had been done. One the industry leaders, Atari had been left behind. Chock it up to yet another example of forgetting to include a little ingredient called quality in your product.

Bonus E.T. fact: it was Melissa Mathison, Harrison Ford’s then girlfriend and future wife who wrote the screenplay based on Spielberg’s treatment.

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May 17, 2011

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