Nothing compares to Hollywood’s on/off affair with gaming. Total Film charts 30 years of love, litigation and end-of-level bosses while looking ahead to the next 12 months of play/watch collaborations…
E.T Phones home...
The 18-wheeler trucks started rolling out of the Atari warehouse on Thursday 22 September 1983. Their cargo: millions of Atari VCS cartridges of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, the most hyped game in the company’s history.
Their destination: a landfill site in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Arriving at the desert dump, the trucks emptied their once precious cargo. Cartridges bearing E.T.’s wrinkled prune face scattered into the dust.
Each truckload cost Atari $500 to dump but the real cost to the fledgling videogame industry ran into the millions. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – the birth child of Steven Spielberg and Atari – killed Hollywood’s love affair with videogames overnight and almost crashed the industry itself.
Four years earlier, Atari had been in rude health. By 1979, the company’s 2600 Video Computer System (VCS) was in homes all across America and Asteroids was a multi-million dollar hit.
Hollywood had already recognised the potential and the threat. Warner Communications had bought Atari in 1976 for $28m and by 1982 the Atari VCS 2600 was hosting the first ever movie tie-in Raiders Of The Lost Ark – a button-pushing franchise that’s continued right up to LEGO Indiana Jones – created by a young, bearded programmer called Howard Scott Warshaw.
It sold over a million copies and turned Warshaw into the videogame equivalent of a movie star. “It sure felt like that,” he laughs on the phone from California. “I was hobnobbing with Steven Spielberg, going into stores and seeing people playing my games and getting so excited.
It totally blew my head wide open. America suddenly became the Pac-Man nation and when I told people I made videogames they treated me as if I was an astronaut in the ’60s.”