Retro Scan of the Week: Strategy Guide for the “Worst Game Ever”

March 26th, 2007 by Benj Edwards
Tips on Getting E.T. Home Fast

Oh the wells…the wells. Why must I fall into them?

You know the story — a cautionary tale of extreme cockiness and greed. Atari was so confident of their pending success with their first major movie-licensed game, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600, that they rushed it out the door with only five weeks of development time and churned out four million copies of it. Sure, it sold well for a video game, but Atari lost tons of money on the deal, due to both the exorbitant price they paid for the game rights, and the fact that they sold roughly a quarter of the number of carts they manufactured. It was also one of the biggest letdowns of any video game ever, player wise (well, perhaps tied with Pac-Man for the Atari 2600), with frustrating gameplay that only a masochist could love.

Perhaps somewhere in its cold, machine-like gut, Atari felt the faint stirrings of a suspicion that maybe E.T. wasn’t quite up to snuff. Is that why they included this small fold-out strategy hint sheet with the game? Read it and decide for yourself. But watch out for wells, my friends. Watch out for wells.

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12 Responses to “Retro Scan of the Week: Strategy Guide for the “Worst Game Ever””

  1. Karl-Martin Skontorp Says:

    Here is a pretty interesting bit of trivia:

  2. Panokko Says:

    I had this game. Needles to say it was my least favorite Atari 2600 game (that was Yar’s revenge). On a side note I wasn’t fond of pacman for my atari 2600 either, but that was because I was really bad at it.

  3. Mark Says:

    if i remember correctly, the cartridge was about 50 or 60 bucks back then! the equivelent to an x-box system today.
    between this and superman, it’s amazing that bushnell was never lynched.

  4. KitsuneDarkStalker Says:

    Karl-Martin Skontorp: Everybody knows that, though…

    And I seriously think the only person who likes this game is Lauren Gonzalez from Gamespot.

  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    Nolan Bushnell had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t even with Atari at the time (1982). He was forced out of the company in 1978. Had Bushnell been in charge of Atari, I doubt that all the Pac-Man / E.T. shenanigans would have happened.

  6. KitsuneDarkStalker Says:

    Nolan Bushnell was a visionary, too bad he let people take over his vision.

  7. David Says:

    I have a cool music video about the atari 2600 and this awful game. It stars 3 guys that go and find the atari land fill and dig up thousands and thousands of ET cartridges. I’m not sure where they got all those cartridges… Maybe they DID dig them up!


  8. totallyamused Says:

    I seem to remember that some later revisions to the packaging included an additional set of instructions, like a 1 or 2 page photocopy that gave some instructions on playing the game. I don’t recall the specifics, but I believe it was due to a lot of complaints – people just couldn’t figure out how to play the game.

  9. Moondog Says:

    I forgot about this one! The Raiders of the Lost Ark game still gives me nightmares!

  10. medarch Says:

    I love how it says “Start with Game 3”. Imagine the absurdity of that statement these days.

  11. SonicGT Says:

    As a video game, it was an absolute travesty.

    As a video game coded in 6 weeks from scratch, its actually pretty good. It could have been a LOT worse.

  12. Ramsey Says:

    Hey, I’ve actually got that guide. Believe me, it helps. It’s tough game.

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