Howard Scott Warshaw had five weeks to design ET the alien, Atari’s Christmas reaction to the 1982 Steven Spielberg film. The Objective: Develop the game by September to get it on shelves by December. Most game developments took eight months.
Warshaw was interviewed for the new Netflix documentaries. Highscore, that tells the story of early video game development, starting with Tomohiro Nishikado Space Invaders.
The former game designer explained this innovation with the words: “We are taking the television, which was traditionally a passive medium, and transforming it into an active medium.”
Unfortunately for Warshaw, and as he admits, his enduring contribution comes in the form of shame: a video game that hit shelves at the height of the early video game boom and nearly caused “game ends”
Why did Atari’s ET game fail?
Beginning users found the game mechanics frustrating. Early reviews criticized the game and affected sales of successive releases. (So many copies of ET was not sold that Atari began burying cartridges in a landfill.)
The game is designed to represent low quality video game industry market strategies and fundraising, adopting games based on hit movies, and then taking them through development. With too many games and consoles, the video game industry saw peak sales of $ 3.2 billion in 1983, a 97 percent (97 percent!) Drop in sales.
The so-called “Atari shock” shifted market dominance to Japan, where there had been no crash. The next company on the scene, and what would help the industry slowly recover, you can probably guess: Nintendo.
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