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Classic Games (Games) Games

Landfill Copies of Atari's 'E.T.' End Up On eBay 107

Nerval's Lobster writes "In the early 1980s, Atari made what seemed like a slam-dunk bet: a game based on E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the most beloved (and highest-grossing) films of all time. The company was so sure it had a hit in the making, in fact, that it manufactured millions of E.T. game cartridges, which flooded store shelves just in time for holiday shopping in December 1982. The game sold well at the outset, but it didn't sell well enough: By early 1983, Atari still had 3.5 million unsold cartridges on its hands. Embarrassed by the failure, Atari dumped those cartridges into a city landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. In 2003, Canadian entertainment company Fuel Industries received permission from Alamogordo's town counsel to excavate the landfill for the long-lost cartridges. Now some of those cartridges have surfaced on eBay, selling for $50 and up; if you ever wanted to own a little slice of video-game history, now's your chance." (You might recall the news from earlier this year that some copies of E.T. had been found.)
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Landfill Copies of Atari's 'E.T.' End Up On eBay

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  • Store Returns (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tempest_2084 ( 605915 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @10:49AM (#48325699)
    Just to clarify things, the cartridges dumped at Alamogordo were returns from retail stores not excess inventory from Atari. Many of them still have store stickers on them. There were never millions of ET cartridges dumped at Alamogordo, they were a mix of titles (2600 and 5200) and not in the millions.
    • Just to clarify things

      To clarify things even more, the game was not any good. Some people list it as one of the worst games ever, but that's probably extreme. After paying $50 for this, do not expect you will enjoy playing it. It's like paying $50 to buy the Star Wars Christmas Special.

      • To clarify things even more, the game was not any good. Some people list it as one of the worst games ever, but that's probably extreme. After paying $50 for this, do not expect you will enjoy playing it. It's like paying $50 to buy the Star Wars Christmas Special.

        Actually I think ET gets a bad rap. The game itself is decidedly average, but it's fun in short spurts and has some amazing graphics (for the 2600 anyway). The problem is that it's also buggy as hell due to its rushed development cycle (6 weeks from start to finish when most games took 3-5 months) to meet the Christmas buying season. The biggest issue is that the collision detection with the pits is wonky and it's too difficult to tell what parts of ET can touch the pit without falling in and what part

        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          Yeah, I solved it back then. I guess falling back down was a bug (it was a little frustrating), but I actually found it to be an above-average Atari 2600 game. Seriously, get an emulator and play them all. You will see it gets a solid B-. Not great, but a playable and somewhat fun multi-screen adventure game (of which there were so few on Atari: Raiders of the Lost Ark (only slightly better), Adventure, Superman, Haunted House, Star Raiders.
  • Bulldozer operator: What fitting end to your life's pursuits. You're about to become a permanent addition to this landfill. Who knows? In 30+ years, even you may be worth something.
    ET: Ha ha ha ha.
    [under his breath]
    ET: -Flips the middle finger-; (the tip glows).

  • 1. Make bad game
    2. Add landfill waste
    3. Simmer on low heat for 30 years
    4. ???
    5. Excavate and sell to collectors (Profit!)
    • $50 To sell isn't really that great of an investment.

      Now if these games cost $20.00 back in 1983, then you will not be making any money due to inflation.

      • 30 years is a lot of time for extra (or any) costs to be absorbed, which means you WILL make some money.

      • Some of the ET ones are going for $600+ range, if you call the cheap, thats up to you. Games back then cost $30 to $50 (rare but not unheard of) back in 1983, I used to buy them NEW in the store, and I still have a couple with the Prices still on them. BTW I have been playing and buying videos games since the 70s.
      • $50 is also a lot to get a sucker to buy it for. They must think it's more valuable for having marinated in a landfill, since this game was already available on eBay for a tenth of that price. I got my copy with a console and many other games for about $100. Not that I'd actually want to play this terrible game. The are fun 2600 games, but this is not one of them.
        • They must think it's more valuable for having marinated in a landfill,

          It's an urban legend that turned out to be true and you can own a piece of it. That's the only value these cartridges have. It's like owning alligator boots made from an alligator found in the sewer.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        $50 To sell isn't really that great of an investment.

        Now if these games cost $20.00 back in 1983, then you will not be making any money due to inflation.

        Given the cost, they probably were $40 or more back in the day (the actual price of games hasn't changed all that much, but when you take inflation into account, the old games are much more expensive than new games today

        Of course, while they were digging in the desert, they really should've looked for all the Apple Lisas and Apple III's that were supposedly

  • by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @11:00AM (#48325775) Homepage

    I just love the classic Atari 2600 box art! I would love to buy an artbook of it - possibly posters and/or shirts as well.

  • Those are some of the worst pictures I have seen for ebay listings...
  • I still have a copy that my dad bought me 30 years ago, and as of two years ago it still works fine. It's been used a fair bit, but I'm sure it is better condition than a copy that spent 30 years in a landfill. Are you sure there are people willing to spend $50 for a game with so many bugs (in this case, both programmatic and probably literal)? I'm willing to bet there are so many copies out there like mine, and so many people who hate the game, that nobody will be willing to spend more than $5.

    PS: The g

    • Strangely, there are lots of those now bidding in the $200+ range. I was going to post that there is no way they would
      ever get their excavation costs back but I might be wrong. What are people buying these for? I also have a large box
      of working atari games. You can buy large lots on ebay or at garage sales for next to nothing. Why the
      premium? Is it just because of the history?

      • What are people buying these for? Is it just because of the history?

        Yes.

        • What are people buying these for? Is it just because of the history?

          Yes.

          I still don't get it. So a company made a bad call and dumped inventory. In this case it
          was to a landfill presumably so they wouldn't flood the market and bring down cartridge prices.
          Also, from the looks of the titles, there were a lot of titles. My guess this is a pretty common
          practice. Microsoft wants full shelves of their latest OS at best buy so they ship a bunch of
          units, cost to them is basically nothing. The ones that don't sell get sent back and destroyed.
          It would be against their best interest

      • Why the premium? Is it just because of the history?

        Because they are idiots who have more money than sense. The game was crap 30 years ago and I don't think time has improved it any. I'm old enough to remember when it was being sold the first time and have actually played this game. Anyone who buys this game is an imbecile and if you pay more than $1 for it you need to wear a helmet to protect your soft skull.

        • I may be tempted to buy a copy of the game now, just to play it and laugh at it's horribleness, but it wouldn't be at a premium, and it sure as hell wouldn't be a copy covered in garbage.
      • by Agares ( 1890982 )
        I had this game as well and wish I would have kept it since people are paying so much for it apparently. When I first got it as a kid I literally played like maybe 30 seconds of it and just shut it off since it was so bad.
      • Why the premium? Is it just because of the history?

        Hipsters buying it ironically to play while drinking their Pabst are driving up demand.

      • I bet a lot of high prices are for games that include original boxes and or instruction manuals. I picked up my 2600 with 80+ games for $75 about 10 years ago (box of games, no original boxes/manuals). Still works, but we no longer pull it out for parties.

        Shoot, I even got ET with the set, but I recall the pain it caused me a long time ago and would never want to relive even a taste of that.

      • Strangely, there are lots of those now bidding in the $200+ range. I was going to post that there is no way they would ever get their excavation costs back but I might be wrong. What are people buying these for? I also have a large box of working atari games. You can buy large lots on ebay or at garage sales for next to nothing. Why the premium? Is it just because of the history?

        “Look at this. It’s worthless — ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless. Like the Ark.”

      • Is it just because of the history?

        More likely because of herd mentality

    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

      I still have my copy as well, but I haven't fired it up in a while (emulators!).

      But those Atari 2600 carts were pretty robust.....just ask any of the ones that were flung across my room. I would bet that a cart wrapped in cardboard survived rather well.

    • I know right? I actually have 3 copies of it, 2 of which were thrown into those "buy this whole shoebox full of 2600 carts for $10, but you have to take them all" garage sale deals, and 1 of which is still in the original packaging (although not sealed).
    • It's been used a fair bit, but I'm sure it is better condition than a copy that spent 30 years in a landfill.

      Why would you put yourself through that?

  • Even though these were fished out of landfill, I'm betting some lawyers will come up with some basis to sue people for this.

    Retroactively, you don't get to sell what we dumped in the landfill, because we're not getting paid and it's our IP.

    Mark my words.

    • Well, they can certainly file, but they would lose. I remember a business law case we went over many years ago where Hallmark Cards trashed a bunch of their cards, someone salvaged them and got sued. The case ruled against Hallmark. I'm not finding it in a Google, but remember the case from the class.

      • I know that in theory, once you throw it in the garbage it isn't yours.

        But, in practice, with IP and EULAs and everything else around this ... all they have to do is claim you violated the terms of a license they've changed the terms of since it was published, and then I honestly don't know.

        Yes, what I said should not happen, and is intended to be a humorous observation.

        Sadly, the world keeps disappointing me, and making the paranoid-sounding, ridiculous things come true.

        It's not like they haven't been tryi

        • I know that in theory, once you throw it in the garbage it isn't yours.

          But, in practice, with IP and EULAs and everything else around this

          None of that applies because nobody has agreed to a EULA (these games didn't have EULAs) and because nobody has made a copy, they are selling originals.

          • Well, I would wager there was some form of license even then. And since all forms of license have been construed to be something the issuer can rewrite in any way they choose ... we'll see.

            Look, I want to agree with you. I want to sound somewhat farcical and loony. That's kind of my point.

            But, increasingly, we seem to live in some bizarro world where the law is whatever the fuck the corporations paying the politicians say it is.

            And then I discover that the most crazy and paranoid thing you can say in jes

            • Well, I would wager there was some form of license even then.

              Just go check out some of the manuals [atariage.com] and look at the scans. There's copyright and sometimes warranty info but no license. Back then you just bought a copy of some media and it was covered by copyright law, the end. Licenses were for fancy software, so fancy you needed dongles and/or license servers. And you might even have to sign something to get your authorization keys, which would get FedExed to you via next day. Now you have to agree to a license to see someone say hello to the world.

              Granted, that day'

              • As I said, I don't disagree with the reasoning, and can't see how anybody could make the argument and have it hold up in court.

                In which case I'll add another layer of tinfoil, and you get to be smug.

                Otherwise, I'll add another layer of tinfoil, and I will get to be even more cynical and depressed. :-P

  • WTF is with those "sponsored links" at the bottom? Apparently even the "disable ads" option doesn't remove them. Oh well, at least I can kill them with adblock.

  • Slam dunk bet! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @11:37AM (#48326065)

    The E.T. game was a lesson in the folly of games based on movies. Sadly, it's a lesson many companies still haven't learned. There are still executives in the game industry who think the road to success is to license a big-name movie or other franchise and then sell a game based on it. And the key phrase there is "sell a game", without much thought given to actually creating the game, or what is going to make the game fun to play.

    What makes a game fun and engaging is, primarily, the gameplay mechanism. Movies are non-interactive and have no gameplay mechanisms. Therefore, they have little of value to offer to a licensed game. Yes, you can take a generic, well-proven game mechanic and slap on a movie-colored coat of paint, but it means nothing. It may possibly turn out to be an OK game, but there's no reason to expect it to surpass games that were designed as their own properties from the outset. The reverse is more often true: a game concept originated by a game designers is more likely to produce a truly fun game, as compared with a movie concept that some programmers have been ordered to "turn into some kind of game that we can sell this Christmas".

    • Re:Slam dunk bet! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Galaga88 ( 148206 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @11:50AM (#48326203)

      I feel bad for Howard Warshaw (the designer of E.T.). He was given all of five weeks by Atari to design and program the game, from concept to final product. I imagine he realized at some point that the game was awful, but had no choice but to sign off on it because there was no way to rework it in that kind of time frame.

      The complete opposite of Blizzard and Valve, who've shown a willingness to delay or outright cancel games that aren't up to snuff rather than release low quality products. (At least Blizzard used to be like that.)

      • by Megane ( 129182 )

        He was given all of five weeks by Atari to design and program the game, from concept to final product.

        In comparison, the typical 2600 game took six months for all that. Also note that like most 2600 games, he did it completely solo. There was no art department, no sound department, etc.

    • What makes a game fun and engaging is, primarily, the gameplay mechanism. Movies are non-interactive and have no gameplay mechanisms. Therefore, they have little of value to offer to a licensed game. Yes, you can take a generic, well-proven game mechanic and slap on a movie-colored coat of paint, but it means nothing. It may possibly turn out to be an OK game, but there's no reason to expect it to surpass games that were designed as their own properties from the outset.

      It's even more difficult than that. Movies like "Star Wars" lend themselves to video games, because it's "an expansive universe in which stuff happens, including the movie". Tie Fighter Wars was a fun game because you were flying a Tie Fighter, and shooting other ships. The movie tie-in was "the ship you were flying" and "the ship you were shooting". "Jedi Knight" was a fun game because you were using blasters, thermal detonators, and lightsabers in an FPS - they also kept the costumes, force powers, and go

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      The reverse is more often true: a game concept originated by a game designers is more likely to produce a truly fun game

      I'm going to guess that "The Empire Strikes Back" by Parker Brothers fell into the latter category. In that game you do nothing but zip around and shoot imperial walkers on Hoth. There's not much depth to that game (hey, it's only 4K), but at least it's fun.

  • Why would anyone pay $1 much less $50 for a game that was known to be complete crap. The game didn't get any better in the last 30 years and they buried it the first time for a reason. Now that they've dug it up it doesn't even have the benefit of being relatively rare.

  • Atari has just published a new game based on the hit movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial!

  • Related story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:13PM (#48326451)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The hackaday article is just fluff standing in the way of the actual content. Here's a link to the actual article [neocomputer.org] discussing the fixes.

      • I didn't want to Slashdot the neocomputer.org server, with a direct link and I'm guessing hackaday can better withstand the effect.

        • by DRJR ( 1842278 )

          Thanks for the Fixing E.T. article. It was a great read!

          I, like the fixer, are one of the people that always thought E.T. was a great game, even as a kid. It had a little learning curve and then it was just fun. No one has been ever been able to tell me why E.T. is a "terrible" game other that "it just is".

          Considering, HSW had about, what, 6 weeks after Atari finalized the deal with Spielberg to create the game in time for manufacture and spent 1 week designing and 5 weeks programming and testing, it's amaz

  • Where the Apple Lisa's are buried. I've actually had the privilege of seeing one in the flesh in recent history.
    • The didn't make many Lisas to begin with, and they weren't trash-worthy.... it was the original Macintoshes that were trash-worthy.
  • Jokes on them.... I still have my original copy!

  • by Cutting_Crew ( 708624 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @01:09PM (#48327003)
    This one on ebay [ebay.com] is currently at $605 with 7 days yet to go.
  • Location of first nuclear test (well, close enough)... Dumping ground for unsold ET cartridges...
    Coincidence? Maybe they were hoping someone would nuke the site from orbit (just to be sure, of course) to remove all possibility of recovery...

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