Video game:Atari E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Atari, Inc.1982

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play
Rochester , United States

Part of the draw of many video games is the opportunity for gamers to play as characters they know and love from comic books, movies, and television shows. However, the process of bringing a character from one medium into another involves many complicated steps, such as the legal bargaining that takes place over rights. Developers require licenses to animate characters into life. Atari, Inc released the very first movie licensed video game in 1982 entitled "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and based off the Steven Spielberg movie of the same name. Because of its success, Atari released another video game version of a Spielberg movie soon after. However, it proved not only to be a failure for the company, but a disaster as well.

In December 1982, Atari, Inc released "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," one of the most infamous titles in all of video game history. Gamers play as a single-player and must collect different pieces of a special telephone to allow E.T. to "phone home."

Because Atari wanted to release the game in time for the holiday season, and they only received the rights at the end of July 1982, programmers had less than six weeks to develop the game. It became the fastest game ever completed, as well as one of the worst. Despite the popularity of the film, critics ridiculed "E.T." the game for its plot, gameplay, and graphics. Nicholas Pileggi of "New York Magazine" called the game "a loser," and Kevin Bowen of GameSpy described it as "convoluted and insane."

For many years, industry specialists blamed "E.T." for causing the North American video game crash of 1983, as well as the end of Atari in 1984. They cite Atari's $536 million loss in 1983, as well the thousands of copies of remaining unsold games. For decades, a rumor persisted that Atari buried these unsold games in a New Mexican landfill. In 2014, this urban legend proved true, when a documentary film crew received permission to dig up the landfill and discovered the remains of "E.T." cartridges and packages. Even though historians cannot blame "E.T" for single-handily causing the video game market to crash in 1983, its legacy as a disaster remains. In 2007, GamePro included the game on its list of "The 52 Most Important Video Games of All Time," while simultaneously referring to it as the "worst movie game ever." It taught the industry to take its time when releasing video games, and that games tied to popular movies would not necessarily always succeed.


  • Title: Video game:Atari E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Creator: Atari, Inc.
  • Date Created: 1982, 1982
  • Location: Sunnyvale, CA, Sunnyvale, CA
  • Subject Keywords: electronic game, video game, Atari, electronic game, video game, Atari
  • Type: Console Games, Console Games
  • Rights: Universal Studios, Universal Studios
  • Medium: printed paper, plastic
  • Object ID: 110.14083, 110.14083
  • Credit Line: Gift of Glenn and Suzanne Groff, Gift of Glenn and Suzanne Groff

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