E.T is buried in the desert. On 20th November, Microsoft will dig him up.
Atari: Game Over is an upcoming documentary that charts how the video game company collapsed, almost taking the industry with it. Flush with cash and 1980s excess (meetings were held in the Jacuzzi) the market overexpanded, with companies producing substandard videogames in the knowledge that people would buy them anyway.
Then there was E.T: The Extra Terrestrial. A more or less unplayable licensed game, it was produced in massive numbers, as Atari assumed the blockbuster would guarantee high sales. It didn’t. In the most infamous disaster in early video game history, thousands of unsold copies were buried in a landfill out in the New Mexico desert. The market imploded soon after, only to be resurrected by Japanese company Nintendo years later.
The documentary includes an archaeological dig to unearth the cartridges, and will be released on the Xbox Live streaming service this year.
Microsoft shouldn’t feel too smug about Atari’s Ozymandian downfall. Game Over is one of the few surviving programmes from Xbox Entertainment Studios, Microsoft’s failed attempt to create television shows for their games consoles, which was shut down earlier this year.