English Language > The Story Behind the Worst Video Game of All Time

- Okay, so let's just,

let's just put it on the table, here, okay,

E.T. is frequently cited as one of the worst

video games in history.

I got to read a magazine that said that my game

was single-handedly responsible for the crash

of the video game industry in the early 80s.

(laughing)

That's a good one.

People are reticent to ask me about it,

they think I'm very sensitive about it, you know,

"Oh my God, you did the worst game of all time, you know,

don't you wanna hide?"

and it's like, no.

- [Narrator] Howard Scott Warshaw.

He was a video game programmer for Atari in the early 80s.

He made some of the most beloved games for the Atari 2600.

- [Howard] I made Yars' Revenge, then I followed that

with Raiders of the Lost Ark, I had had two very

successful games, both million sellers.

I truly believed everything I touched, hopefully,

was gonna turn to gold because I was gonna put

everything I had into it.

- [Narrator] One fateful day, Howard received a call

from the CEO of Atari, asking him if he wanted to take on

their highest profile game ever, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

- [Howard] And I said, "We definitely can do that."

- [Narrator] But, there was one major caveat.

- [Howard] It had to be something that related to the movie,

and it had to be doable in five weeks.

I mean, I had five weeks to do the game,

so I was working all the time.

(digital beeping) (upbeat music)

E.T. was gonna be a basic puzzle game,

with some challenges that you run around to solve,

and if I redistribute the pieces among enough different,

random places, it makes a fresh challenge each time around,

and bingo.

- [Narrator] When it was released, E.T. was

an immediate success, selling over a million copies.

But a few months later, things started to turn.

- [Howard] Retailers are starting to find that the game

is not moving, it's coming back, a lot of people

are disappointed with it.

- [Narrator] Because of the poor planning

and tight production schedule, Howard failed to catch

a fundamental flaw in the game's design.

- [Howard] There are too many times where you make a move,

you do something, and suddenly you wind up somewhere else,

now suddenly you're somewhere else,

and there's too many places in E.T. where the user

is disoriented, and that's a sin of which I am guilty,

and I have been serving penance.

- [Narrator] Shortly after E.T.'s release,

the video game crash was in full swing.

Disappointing sales and mismanagement

forced Atari to restructure.

- [Howard] And in the next couple of months,

Atari went from 10,000 employees to 2,000 employees.

- [Narrator] During the turmoil,

Howard left the gaming industry for good.

He didn't think much about E.T. until nearly a decade later.

- [Howard] Well, by the early 90s,

people started coming out with what a bad game E.T. was.

I was just kinda surprised anybody was actually

even talking about it.

- Good afternoon, some of those E.T. Atari games

unearthed at a New Mexico landfill are now up for sale.

Beaten up cartridges on eBay are going for hundreds

of dollars a piece.

- So we had a poll online--

- Yeah.

- Where fans could choose what game they wanted

to see you play.

- Okay.

- They chose this.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

- Even 30 years later, this obscure thing

that I did so long ago in just five weeks,

it's still generating excitement, enthusiasm.

I get emotional just talking about it now.

Because I just felt I was at the center of something

that is still meaningful.

And that is a huge success.

So when people ask me, you know, "Was E.T. a failure?"

I don't mind when people call it that,

but it'll never, it'll never be a failure to me.

(cheerful music)

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