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Raiders of the Lost Cart

In 1982, with Christmas rapidly approaching, Atari began
work on a game based on the ultra-popular film, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  After paying a reported twenty-five million
dollars for the game rights, Atari gave programmer Howard Scott Warsaw a scant
six weeks to complete the title. Warsaw’s past success, Yar’s Revenge, took at
least five months to complete; his adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, seven
months.


With little time, Warsaw was forced to make a very
simplistic game. E.T. the Extraterrestrial , centered around the main character
repeated falling into pits, collection pieces of a phone, and occasioning
collecting Reese’s Pieces to restore health. There was only one problem- with
such a short schedule, focus testing had to be skipped. It wasn’t until after
the game’s release that a horrible secret was discovered- the game was virtually
unplayable. Players had to levitate out of pits, a very frustrating task,
especially for E.T.’s target demographic- six to twelve year old children.


Not knowing what a fiasco the final code was, Atari ordered
million of cartridges in time for the Christmas buying rush. However, word of
E.T.’s lackluster gameplay spread quickly and a paltry 1.5 million cartridges
were sold. After experiencing a loss of over $500 million dollars, one of most
famous urban legends of video games was born: Atari had purportedly dumped all
the unsold E.T. cartridges in a New Mexico landfill.


Now, a group of students from Auburn University are
embarking on a journey (and creating an internet documentary in the process) to
uncover the truth about this story. On March 15-23, Steven Clontz, Adam Cooner,
Brent Harrison, and Issac McNeely will make a pilgrimage from Auburn, Alabama
to El Paso, Texas. The project, named E.T.’s March,will follow the path a dozen
18-wheelers had made twenty-six years ago, hopefully closing a chapter on one
of gaming’s most fascinating tales.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

9 comments

  1. Hahaha, great pic. I had to laugh

  2. Great story, I hope their adventure is better than the game.

  3. That’s cool. I never heard this story before. I think a neighbor had a 2600 with E.T, but I never played it. Is it really that bad? I remember many 2600 games were pretty much awful.

  4. I love me some Reese’s pieces. mmm.

  5. And thats what caused the video game crash

  6. I just went to the website today, and there’s a new post that they are ‘on hiatus’.

  7. Good to see you are back this week. What happened? Keep the articles coming!

  8. They should have went ahead and started shooting the film anyway. It could have turned out like that Terry Gilliam documentary. A fascinating look in why the movie fell into an ET pit of despair.

    Actually, that’s a better title for the movie: “ET’s Pit of Despair” !

  9. I wish them the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!