One of the enduring video game urban legends is that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 was singlehandedly responsible for the killing the video games. The game was so bad, it took down the Atari juggernaut and the rest of the industry with it. Supposedly, there were *so* many returned copies of E.T. from disgruntled customers that Atari had to bury millions of cartridges at an undisclosed location in the desert. Or so the legend goes.
As with most urban legends, there’s a pinch of truth with a heaping tablespoon of inaccuracies and outright fabrications. While I’ll save my rant for another post in the near future, E.T. simply wasn’t that bad, nor did it kill the video game industry.
As part of Microsoft’s quickly-shuttered Xbox Originals video series, today they released Atari: Game Over, a documentary surrounding this enduring bit of accepted history:
Atari: Game Over is the Xbox Originals documentary that chronicles the fall of the Atari Corporation through the lens of one of the biggest mysteries of all time, dubbed “The Great Video Game Burial of 1983.” As the story goes, the Atari Corporation, faced with an overwhelmingly negative response to “E.T.,” the video game for the Atari 2600, disposed of hundreds of thousands of unsold game cartridges by burying them in the small town of Alamogordo, New Mexico.
It is free to watch as long as you have a Microsoft account (also free). It can be viewed on the Xbox Video website, an Xbox 360 or Xbox One. “Gold” subscription not required.