Friday, December 23, 2005

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Business (Five Million E.T. Pieces)

Claim: Atari buried millions of unsold "E.T." cartridges in a New Mexico desert landfill.

Status: True.

The first signs of the goose's fatal illness came with Atari's Pacman cartridge. Atari was so sure their home version of the world's most popular arcade game would reach new sales heights that they manufactured 12 million Pacman cartridges in 1982 (even though at the time only about 10 million people owned and used Atari VCS consoles)...


Atari sold 7 million copies of Pacman, but the poor quality of the game turned many people off, and Atari was still stuck with 5 million unsold game cartridges.
[snip] If one game cartridge could be selected as the symbol of the sudden demise of Atari's golden goose, however, it would have to be the ill-fated E.T.


...the sheer awfulness of the finished product was unprecedented. Atari rushed E.T. through development in a matter of months to get it onto the market in time for Christmas, and the result was a virtually unplayable game with a dull plot and crummy graphics in which frustrated players spent most of their time leading the E.T. character around in circles to prevent him from falling into pits. Atari produced five million E.T. cartridges, and according to Atari's then-president and CEO, "nearly all of them came back."


When distributor returns were added to the 5 million unsold Pacman cartridges and another 5 million useless E.T. cartridges, Atari found themselves with tons of unsellable merchandise to dispose of, which led to the rumor that Atari buried millions of E.T. cartridges in a landfill in the New Mexico desert.


Atari, stuck with millions of games and consoles that were largely unsellable at any price, sent fourteen truckloads of merchandise from their plant in El Paso, Texas, to be dumped in a city landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico in late September 1983.
In order to keep the site from being looted, steamrollers crushed and flattened the games, and a concrete slab was poured over the remains.

The Gaming Graybeards - Can two thirtysomethings survive on Xbox Live? By Seth Stevenson and Chris Suellentrop

Chris, I'm fresh off our initial foray into the Xbox Live universe, and I am feeling so many new feelings. Here are the moments I enjoyed most:

1) I liked how—just so we could log on and play the shoot'em-up game Halo 2—I had to spend 10 minutes downloading ancillary programs, including something called the "Killtacular Map Pack."

2) I liked how, when we finally started, I was killed within eight seconds. Then I came back to life in another part of the game … and was again killed within eight seconds. I don't think I ever survived longer than 20 seconds. At one point I accidentally detonated something (maybe a plasma grenade) right next to myself. In that instance, I committed suicide before other players had a chance to kill me.

3) I liked when I got in the driver's seat of the "Warthog" assault vehicle and one of our remote Xbox Live teammates quickly hopped onboard and manned the turret gun, as though he expected me to drive us somewhere useful. I instead drove off a cliff and killed us both. Boy, was he surprised!

How was it for you? Notice I've left out the part where we squared off in a head-to-head match. I'll let you describe that.

Chris: I believe I defeated you 7 to 0, meaning I killed you seven times and you killed me zero. That left me falsely confident when we entered our next team match, which we lost 50-11. We started with two other teammates, but they quit halfway through, presumably despondent over being paired with two aging, 30-year-old newbies.


I feel like everyone else is cheating—"modding" their characters to be stronger and better-equipped. There was a lot of chatter about this when we were playing online. One kid said he'd seen a guy in Halo 2 who'd rigged his gun to somehow fire vehicles out of its barrel. You're in a firefight with him and he sends a truck hurtling toward you. (Conversely, it felt like someone had modded my character to be especially frail and had limited my weapons options to "butter knife.")


I have a confession to make. I've already been cheating on you. Late at night, after we stopped playing, I would sneak back to Xbox Live and spend the evenings with him. But don't worry; those encounters were brief and meaningless. It was nothing like when I was with you.

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