Thursday, October 20, 2005


An email went around work last week which announced the news that Electronic Arts ( EA ) had signed non other than film director Steven Spielberg to game development deal which would see ol' Stevie develop 3 new video games. Big news indeed, because everyone in the industry says how the gaming biz is becoming more like " Hollywood " , sans the hookers , good-looking people and cocaine.

It's big news indeed, but it wasn't Spielbergs first foray into videogames, in fact the first time he was involved in any game was for the Atari 2600 and the game was based on the hit 1982 movie "E.T" and it pretty much led to the financial destruction of Atari as well as being considered one of the biggest commercial failings ( and suckiest games ) in video game history.

The story starts as such..Or in movie terms

Ray Kasser ( CEO of Atari ) "Steven Spielberg, it's great to see you, loved, just LOVED that 1941 picture you did!"

Spielberg " Thanks, I'm guessing you were one of the 12 people who saw it? "

Kassar " Hell I saw it 12 times...LOVE Belushi..Oh have you played any of our little videogames yet?"

Spielberg " Yeah, I really love Yars' Revenge...And Burger Time "

Kassar " Wow, that's just great, and that's why you're here. We wanna make a game based on your new movie about that cute kid with down syndrome and the extra vertebrae in his neck."

Spielberg " E.T ?"

Kassar " That's the one, so how much would it cost US, to make the game for YOU?"

Spielberg " 20 Million "

And that's how it started.. And yes that price was true, Kassar went and bought the rights for $ 20 million bucks, and this was in 1983...You figure that most games now, high end 3D games don't come close to 20 mil...Wanna see what 20 Million got you? Just look at that screen shot.

E.T was then programmed by Howard Scott Warshaw, who actually did Yars' revenge, which was a kick ass Atari 2600 game, but he was saddled with a 6 week production schedule, from start to finish in order to hit the Christmas retail season. Warshaw had confidence and much like those who proclaimed that " nothing could sink the Titanic ", he actually introduced the game to Spielberg as " the game that would make the movie famous " ..This man is still shitting out rubber soles from sticking his foot so far down his throat.

I usually don't need to sit at
a computer to make a turd

Atari was expecting huge sales for "E.T", in fact Atari had told all of their game distributors to place their orders for the 1982 year all at once. The distributors expecting a big sales year ( at this time Atari had a mark on 80% of the home video game market ) and ordered a shitload of the little cartridges, expecting the release of the movie, along with the cartridge release of arcade hit Pac-Man to make money hand over fist. But what they didn't expect or figure out was how they got such a tub of shit, into such a small little cartridge.

The game was HORRIBLE, it played poorly, it had no resolve, and in general people hated spending their time as E.T consistently falling down little holes and figuring out exactly what the fuck you were supposed to do, while Elliot would occasionally show up and run right past you...I remember chasing Elliot through about 17 games screens, which were the same 4 screens, but withy different colors....In the words of E.T himself "Owwwwwwch"

A mother enters hoping to see the excited look on her son's face as he plays his newest game from Santa

Mom " Merry Christmas my baby!!!...Do you like the new game that Santa brought for you?"

the child looks at his mother, both confused and angry

Child " Jeez if this is what I get when I'm good, what does Santa do if I'm bad? Fuck me in the ass and pour sugar into my gas tank?"

Needless to say it was not well received and 5 million units of the game were returned or never sold, which the distributors returned in droves back to Atari. Atari, who had produced MORE of the cartridges than they had sold of actual game systems found themselves with tons of cartridges.

So what did Atari do with them all ? The same thing the mob did with Jimmy Hoffa..They buried them. Atari sent 14 truckloads of unsold and returned cartridges ( to be fair they weren't all E.T, some were Pac-Man who people equally despised ) to a city landfill in the desert town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. To keep from people digging them up ( why? ) a concrete slab was placed over the fill site.

That year Warner Brothers, who owned Atari saw their stock plummet two-thirds of their previous value, and Warners had reached the end of it's quarter with profits down 56%...Atari had lost a half a billion dollars ( $ 536 million ) in 1983, and led to the sale by Warners in 1984.
But to be fair Spielberg, just sold the rights and didn't produce the actual game. So this time around everything could work out great, because the man really has no failures when he is the driving force..Especially when you look at his movie.....Oh, except for "A.I" , oh and " Joe Versus The Volcano "..And I almost forgot about " batteries not included "

But if worst comes to worst EA can always make another Madden game.

1 comment:

ok said...

"owwwwwwch" is right. I got the game for christmas too just like the poor kid in your story. This was after eating loads of Reese's Pieces with two fingers, putting mittens on my feet and believing I could levitate oranges. But the game shattered my E.T. illusion which is probably a good thing.