“E.T. was the death of Atari.” If you believe the urban legend, then that game, based on Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, is the sole reason Atari flopped in the 1980s. As the myth went, the company, allegedly so ashamed of the game, decided to bury millions of unsold cartridges in the New Mexico desert and cover them with a slab of concrete; a curious tale we now know to be true. Like the oral histories passed down from one generation to the next, though, certain details of the story behind E.T.’s genesis and Atari’s demise have been lost along the way, and mild inaccuracies have become fact. To find out what really happened more than 30 years ago, we went straight to the man who made the game: former Atari developer Howard Scott Warshaw. This is his story.
The true story of the worst video game in history