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Atari's Landfill Adventures, I now have the proof it's true.

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Atari didn't. Warner head Steve Ross did. And he did it solely because he wanted to woo Spielberg over to Warner for his movies.

Ross giving Spielberg whatever he wanted (guaranteed release by Christmas, guaranteed royalties, etc.) is what lead to all the issues.

That's an interesting perspective. From inside Atari it seemed a lot more like Steve Ross was part of Atari because he ran it. Yes, he also ran other parts of Warner, but he still ran Atari. Kassar served at Ross's pleasure I think.

 

That Ross helped bury Atari by making Atari pay off Spielberg so other Warner units could gain Spielberg movies I think wasn't too bright. Short sighted at best. I haven't actually read anything about Ross saying this was his reason for paying so much for the game license. I look forward to reading that in the future or if you have a link handy.

 

A myth. There were not more ETs made than there were consoles, by the end of the Christmas '82 season there were about 12 million VCS consoles in homes. We're actually going to be putting up an article on the book site regarding this, including showing sources.

I believe the ET games were made before the end of the Christmas '82 season and the decision to make the ET game even eariler.

 

I also believe numbers like 12 million are total units sold, not the number of units still in use. Regardless of the actual number, I still think it was a now classic business lesson and monument to stupidity to think any product could sell 110%, 100%, 90% (pick whatever percentage you like) of an installed base.

 

I look forward to your article. I've already learned a lot of what I'd thought was true were myths, thanks probably to your info, and always happy to learn more.

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Step 1. Offer a huge amount for a license with having no idea what your market is.

Atari didn't. Warner head Steve Ross did. And he did it solely because he wanted to woo Spielberg over to Warner for his movies.

Ross giving Spielberg whatever he wanted (guaranteed release by Christmas, guaranteed royalties, etc.) is what lead to all the issues.

I think Dan is right on this; the market was "easy to play"; Spielberg new that and he didn't get what he wanted - a pacman type game that is easy to play :)

 

Instead the developer got creative license to come up with something that just wasn't easy to play; that's why it got returned in droves and served as an example to many independent 80's Video Game programmers and Software Companies (not just mine) of what not to do.

 

Questions for Dan - did your perception and experience at the time differ? Do you think Nolan would have let that game out of the gate if he had still been running Atari?

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So whats wrong with you mericans? Dont yall own shovels and such. get er done. not one more peep till we see that smashed atari fragments... Highway over it? Well.. Detour and dig er up. this is ATARI we are talking about.. More important than breathing oxygen. I am 36 years old and knew about this from rumor only from Canada waaay back before the interweb... So what does that tell ya.?? Geek friends?? Who knows..

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That's an interesting perspective.

 

That's actually the perspective of the Atari management we interviewed regarding the whole thing, including Ray.

 

From inside Atari it seemed a lot more like Steve Ross was part of Atari because he ran it. Yes, he also ran other parts of Warner, but he still ran Atari. Kassar served at Ross's pleasure I think.

 

After Ray was let go, certainly. Before that it was all Manny on the Warner side. He was the Warner liaison in charge of overseeing Atari.

 

And No, Kassar tried to do his own thing. In the early days he succeeded, by the early 80s though not so much. He tried to push back on the demand the game be ready for the Christmas shopping season, but Ross wouldn't listen. And Howard was put on it at the specific request of Spielberg, because of the job he did on Raiders, which Spielberg loved. We have the whole story in the book, having talked directly to Howard, Ray, Manny, and George Kiss (Howard's supervisor). Likewise we tracked production numbers, returns, etc. via the production manager's logs that were loaned to us.

 

That Ross helped bury Atari by making Atari pay off Spielberg so other Warner units could gain Spielberg movies I think wasn't too bright. Short sighted at best. I haven't actually read anything about Ross saying this was his reason for paying so much for the game license. I look forward to reading that in the future or if you have a link handy.

 

ET was such a small part of the problem, because the problem was already in full swing before ET was even started. It just happened to reach it's crescendo around the release of ET, which is why it's become such a symbol.

 

I believe the ET games were made before the end of the Christmas '82 season and the decision to make the ET game even eariler.

 

ET was released Thanksgiving weekend of '82 and was started in late July '82 (the deal was done by Ross in early July).

 

I also believe numbers like 12 million are total units sold, not the number of units still in use.

 

Even accounting for that, the number in use would have been at least 8-10 million. According to sales figures another million units were sold that '82 Christmas season alone. Five million was not over production based on those numbers of past, present, and future sales.And that's not even accounting for the fact of competing consoles having 2600 adapters and further opening up 2600 cart sales opportunities.

 

Regardless of the actual number, I still think it was a now classic business lesson and monument to stupidity to think any product could sell 110%, 100%, 90% (pick whatever percentage you like) of an installed base.

 

5 million units would have been about half of the installed base, ignoring the million units sold that Christmas and the additional platforms opening up. Certainly 110%, 100%, or 90% would have been complete stupidity. I don't think that was the case here. The stupidity in E.T. was purely in Ross agreeing to the short dev time and guaranteed royalties to Spielberg regardless of the number sold. If Howard would have been giving the 9 months he had to do Raiders, I think it would have been a much better scenario all around.

 

I look forward to your article. I've already learned a lot of what I'd thought was true were myths, thanks probably to your info, and always happy to learn more.

 

Not a problem, glad you enjoy the material.

 

 

I think Dan is right on this; the market was "easy to play"; Spielberg new that and he didn't get what he wanted - a pacman type game that is easy to play :)

 

Instead the developer got creative license to come up with something that just wasn't easy to play; that's why it got returned in droves and served as an example to many independent 80's Video Game programmers and Software Companies (not just mine) of what not to do.

 

You're talking like you have no familiarity with what happened. Spielberg was in on the whole process, he handpicked Howard, and he was shown the game several times and loved it, enough to give it final approval. Howard was not given "creative license," He was given about a week to try and design an entire game and in the process was able to do some innovative console firsts like a full title screen and cut scenes.

 

Do you think Nolan would have let that game out of the gate if he had still been running Atari?

 

That's an easy answer. Nolan gave his stamp of approval to the horrible recent Star Radiers and Yars Revenge remakes when he was on the board as an adviser to Atari SA. We were actually asked to come in and try save both (having consulted with them as well), but it was too late to do any of the major changes we advised.

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You're talking like you have no familiarity with what happened. Spielberg was in on the whole process, he handpicked Howard, and he was shown the game several times and loved it, enough to give it final approval. Howard was not given "creative license," He was given about a week to try and design an entire game and in the process was able to do some innovative console firsts like a full title screen and cut scenes.

Retro Rogue,

"talking like you have no familiarity" seems a bit condescending like your comment to "use the search function" considering that I was on the scene writing commercial software and Video Games, while you literally had to use the search function :)

 

Didn't Spielberg talk about being initially skeptical and having wanted a pacman type game in interviews?

 

From the other thread, the rumor that Scott was related to Warner was something Video Game authors and Software Company owners discussed during the timeframe after watching and analysing back then; we all looked up to Atari as the leader and pioneer in the field.

 

That's an easy answer. Nolan gave his stamp of approval to the horrible recent Star Radiers and Yars Revenge remakes when he was on the board as an adviser to Atari SA. We were actually asked to come in and try save both (having consulted with them as well), but it was too late to do any of the major changes we advised.

Perhaps the answer isn't that easy; having worked for Atari and Nolan recently it seemed clear to me his opinion was stifled a bit as an advisor. That is quite a different position than he had even under Warner which in turn was different than what he had at the helm - you can't ignore those differences because they change the equation. I'm curious to hear Dan's thoughts as well.

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After Ray was let go, certainly. Before that it was all Manny on the Warner side. He was the Warner liaison in charge of overseeing Atari.

 

And No, Kassar tried to do his own thing. In the early days he succeeded, by the early 80s though not so much. He tried to push back on the demand the game be ready for the Christmas shopping season, but Ross wouldn't listen. And Howard was put on it at the specific request of Spielberg, because of the job he did on Raiders, which Spielberg loved. We have the whole story in the book, having talked directly to Howard, Ray, Manny, and George Kiss (Howard's supervisor). Likewise we tracked production numbers, returns, etc. via the production manager's logs that were loaned to us.

Obviously management were all yes men and Ross didn't run day to day operations. But if Ross picked up the phone and told Kassar to paint all the buildings pink guess what color the buildings would be? The concept of Warner and Atari being separate identities is false imo.

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Questions for Dan - did your perception and experience at the time differ? Do you think Nolan would have let that game out of the gate if he had still been running Atari?

I joined Atari 4/83 and never met Nolan and no one I knew at Atari ever talked about Nolan. It was Warner, Warner and more Warner. My indoctrination was as Atari was falling apart so the stories I heard were no doubt skewed toward blaming management, which meant Warner. People knew very little about how the deal started but they were very aware of the result. For sure there was virtually no respect that I saw toward management as far as knowing anything about games. It's pretty typical at any company for workers to complain about management, this was more. When I joined Atari was still awash in money, or was shortly before. Everyone still had the feeling anyways of being an extremely successful company that had been built in no time with their own hands. Not cocky, more proud and astonished.

 

Then seeing that go away completely in a few months was also astonishing. There was a feeling that to wreck all that in such a short period had to have been done by tremendous stupidity at the highest levels. This wasn't caused by competition or even the threat of competition. It wasn't caused by a fickle consumer. Atari had a product a huge part of the world wanted and was willing to pay a good margin. Atari was well capitalized and had already gained a lot of control over the market. It was their's to lose and they did exactly that almost over night.

 

Certainly there are mitigating circumstances and reasons behind decisions, but to me Atari is a case of monument to stupidity.

 

I do enjoy learning more about what happened, or what people say happen, behind the scenes. And learning has changed my opinion over time. However, it still remains a monument to stupidity to me.

 

And I think it should be considered that what people say happened behind the scenes doesn't mean that's what actually happened.

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I joined Atari 4/83 and never met Nolan and no one I knew at Atari ever talked about Nolan. It was Warner, Warner and more Warner. My indoctrination was as Atari was falling apart so the stories I heard were no doubt skewed toward blaming management, which meant Warner. People knew very little about how the deal started but they were very aware of the result. For sure there was virtually no respect that I saw toward management as far as knowing anything about games. It's pretty typical at any company for workers to complain about management, this was more. When I joined Atari was still awash in money, or was shortly before. Everyone still had the feeling anyways of being an extremely successful company that had been built in no time with their own hands. Not cocky, more proud and astonished.

 

Then seeing that go away completely in a few months was also astonishing. There was a feeling that to wreck all that in such a short period had to have been done by tremendous stupidity at the highest levels. This wasn't caused by competition or even the threat of competition. It wasn't caused by a fickle consumer. Atari had a product a huge part of the world wanted and was willing to pay a good margin. Atari was well capitalized and had already gained a lot of control over the market. It was their's to lose and they did exactly that almost over night.

 

Certainly there are mitigating circumstances and reasons behind decisions, but to me Atari is a case of monument to stupidity.

 

I do enjoy learning more about what happened, or what people say happen, behind the scenes. And learning has changed my opinion over time. However, it still remains a monument to stupidity to me.

 

And I think it should be considered that what people say happened behind the scenes doesn't mean that's what actually happened.

 

Dan,

all excellent points! :) Matches well with my experience from the timeframe; it was indeed Atari's market to capitalise on or lose, and none of us in the industry could believe Atari had transitioned from a Video Game culture of Easy to Play, Difficult to Master under Nolan, to Warners loss of vision regarding this (seemingly simple) model - I think the disconnect was so great as to cause the excessive anti-Warner attitude you encountered.

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My cousin gave me his copy of ET around '87 amongst a few other games he had when he got his NES. He told me it sucked and enough about it to know how to play, but I never could get how to call the ship when you had the phone built and get to the landing zone to be picked up. I remember playing it a fair bit mostly just because I had it, wishing I could beat it...

Never knew that just recently tons had been purportedly buried, never knew that the world loathed it and it supposedly almost killed videogaming as a whole, never thought that 25 years later all this shit would be going down trying to dig up broken ones... it was just a game I played sometimes, didn't 'hate' it at all, had no problem with holes except that one screen that has holes everywhere and untill recently never even noticed ET was the wrong color, now it's kinda glaring but still love it for the ET theme music... like most games, the games with music have some of the fondest memories for me, ET's theme, the Star Wars theme, Vanguard's invincibilty theme, Pressure Cooker's theme & game music... in fact I think I must go play some Pressure Cooker now...

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Obviously management were all yes men and Ross didn't run day to day operations. But if Ross picked up the phone and told Kassar to paint all the buildings pink guess what color the buildings would be? The concept of Warner and Atari being separate identities is false imo.

 

Dan, I think you'll find if you look through other posts of mine in this and other threads, I have certainly been promoting to people the fact that there was a dual management. I.E. Warner management would often swoop in and make decisions for Atari - often against decisions Atari management had already made. This did not start to happen more until the early 80s though. The direct liaison from Warner who was in charge of overseeing Atari was Manny as stated. Ross had more of a hands off approach. That stopped when Ray was let go and Ross started even going around Manny to make direct decisions - which was why Manny wound up being let go almost immediately after the splitting up of the company. I wouldn't call Ray and his team "Yes men" though I admit some at Atari may have seen it that way. From our interviews with him (and other Atari management as well as supporting documentation) to get to the bottom of things, he sincerely tried to lead Atari in the best way he thought possible and it worked for a time. The problem was when Ray started building up more and more isolation with management from the rest of the company and handing more and more power over to marketing - which he himself admits. (Owen Rubin had some funny stories about that as well). As you just mentioned, you joined the company in '83 - already well into the downfall and the start of the clamping down by Warner. Nolan has always been an exceptional start-up guy, which is what his forte is. Running large corporations though takes a different skill set, and that's why shareholders of most growing startups require some sort of management be put in place. Nolan even realized this himself early on, leaving Atari's presidency not long after Ted was forced out and just remaining as chairman of the board, having Dr. John Wakefield and a number of other people brought in to run things. They almost ran Atari in the ground, causing huge financial problems that ultimately lead to seeking out investors and then the sale of Atari to Warner. Which shows you have to choose the right people to be at the helm. Warner were the right people for a time. It was under them that Atari became the large company you remember and that had the glory years of the brand.

 

As for why everything would be Warner-Warner-Warner instead of Nolan by that time, remember that Nolan had already been gone by late '78 and even then he had already "checked out" after the sale to Warner, preferring to focus on Chuck E. Cheese and sailing (and I emphasize sailing, because even then it was Gene Landrum who led the design and building of the Chuck E. Cheese concept and first location) - which even he has admitted. By the late 70s, the creation and oversight of game creation was coming directly from the people in Coin and their regular game concept meetings that they kept logs of in the cherished "game ideas" book (I say coin, because Consumer and the fledgling 2600 programming group were largely taking their lead from Coin at that point). Al Alcorn famously recounts in Steve Kent's "Ultimate History of Videogames" how the few times Nolan tried to get involved (while he was there), he'd have to manage Nolan's involvement to try and not interfere. We have most of this in the book as well.

 

Likewise, when you joined in April '83 there may have been an appearance of being awash in money, but that wasn't the case according to the financials and goings on. The dam had just burst that December '82 and was already sincerely going downhill, enough so that Ross and Manny had a meeting with Ray that January who was expecting to be fired, but he survived that for another 6 months (others were not so fortunate and layoffs were done that January).

 

Additionally, please understand - in no way did we just go by what one person said. In every way possible we used a multitude of cross-referencing and vetting, including direct documentation, logs, the internal email system (which Curt still has an archive of), and having others corroborate a story or material without leading them to.

 

That's for example, why we didn't include one story where Ray talked about being in negotiations with Steve Jobs to buy Apple in '79 and Steve Ross nixing it (Warner would have had to of funded the purchase). We couldn't find anyone else or any supporting evidence to corroborate it.

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Obviously management were all yes men and Ross didn't run day to day operations. But if Ross picked up the phone and told Kassar to paint all the buildings pink guess what color the buildings would be? The concept of Warner and Atari being separate identities is false imo.

Oops...meant "Obviously management weren't all yes men".

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Retro, all good points.

 

I look at this more as entertainment than whether something is true or not. It's really cool that all this info is being found and cross checked by a surprising (to me) number of archivists. I think you all have done an excellent job of showing as a realistic representation as is probably possible. However to me the best possible case is more like a story based on actual events. Even if you ask me what I had for lunch I can't accurately convey fact, best I could do is tell a story, leaving out some bits I don't remember and filling in with made up memories.

 

No reflection on you or other archivists excellent work, but I see all history, including what I had for lunch, more as fiction based on actual events than any kind of fact when it gets into emotion, frame of mind, circumstances. Timelines and documentation of course stand up much better.

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Wonder whatever happened to Spud...who started this epic thread. :ponder:

 

The Men in Black did pay a visit to me, next thing I know it's June 2013.

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The Men in Black did pay a visit to me, next thing I know it's June 2013.

Unless they tied you down and wired you up to a de-neuralizer, I don't see your memory getting restored. BTW, nice to see you logging in after 1+ years of absence. I'm guessing you were lurking all this time and never bothered to log in. I read the entire thread last summer; it was an epic read! ;)

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. I'm guessing you were lurking all this time and never bothered to log in. I read the entire thread last summer; it was an epic read! ;)

Once in a while I would look to see where this thread was or maybe check out the marketplace, but thats about it. Busy with life and all I guess. I've been listening to podcasts like Retro Gaming Roundup and the 2600 Game by Game to help get my Atari fix. It's good to be back though, especially with the latest news on the landfill. It should be interesting to see if they go through with it and can find the right location. I need to reread the thread again myself if I have a day or two. I do not remember, did anyone ever reach M. Mcquiddy's parents in Roswell? I remember that I or someone was going to write (Arthur?) her father and see if maybe he had any of her photos or heard about the burial. He being a reporter himself he may remember something.

I guess it may be pointless now, but photos of before the concrete may be someplace.

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You're talking like you have no familiarity with what happened. Spielberg was in on the whole process, he handpicked Howard, and he was shown the game several times and loved it, enough to give it final approval. Howard was not given "creative license," He was given about a week to try and design an entire game and in the process was able to do some innovative console firsts like a full title screen and cut scenes.

Retro Rogue,

I checked up on this and it seems Howard Warshaw disagrees:

 

In retrospect maybe I should have done a pacman type game like Spielberg wanted instead of coming up with something creative and new.

 

https://en.wikipedia...ial_(video_game

 

A lot of people dump on Pac-Man's flickering ghosts today but in contrast to ET everyone liked it back then - it was fun and easy to play.

 

While initial sales of ET capitalised and rode on the wave of Pac-Man's commercial success as a game that met Nolan's criteria for fun, the shockwave from ET hurt additional sales of Pac-Man (Atari might well have sold 12 million instead of 7) and also hurt the rest of Atari's games as well as the industry at large.

 

As Buyatari pointed out on the If ET was redone thread, ET involved a gargantuan distribution deal that encompassed all of Warners massive marketing clout in tandem with the Motion Picture Industry.

 

Think ET just happen to be the last nail in the coffin and so it gets more crap than it deserves.

Dan, I think the magnitude of that deal makes ET more than just one nail because it magnified the impact.

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Retro Rogue,

I checked up on this and it seems Howard Warshaw disagrees:

 

In retrospect maybe I should have done a pacman type game like Spielberg wanted instead of coming up with something creative and new.

 

https://en.wikipedia...ial_(video_game

 

 

That in no way disagrees with what I stated. Spielberg gave an initial idea, but ultimately left the creativity up to Howard as he had with Raiders, which is why he handpicked Howard. Howard spent two days doing the basic design for E.T. then had a meeting with Spielberg, Ray Kassar, Skip Paul, and Lyle Rains (who was working on the coin-op version), at which time Spielberg approved the concept and it moved on. Just as with Raiders, he kept checking in during the process to see how things were progressing and saw the final game which he gave his approval to as well. What we have directly came from Howard (multiple phone interviews, email, skype, and in person when we were out there by him last year), as well as his manager, and Ray Kassar, and internal documentation. There are no disagreements.

 

While initial sales of ET capitalised and rode on the wave of Pac-Man's commercial success as a game that met Nolan's criteria for fun, the shockwave from ET hurt additional sales of Pac-Man (Atari might well have sold 12 million instead of 7) and also hurt the rest of Atari's games as well as the industry at large.

 

Not what happened at all. Pac-Man had already started tanking by the Summer of '82, and we have the production memo to stop producing Pac-Man and stop using it as a pack-in before E.T. was even released.

 

Dan, I think the magnitude of that deal makes ET more than just one nail because it magnified the impact.

 

It was simply a nail, which took on more significance in hindsight because of it's timing.

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No reflection on you or other archivists excellent work, but I see all history, including what I had for lunch, more as fiction based on actual events than any kind of fact when it gets into emotion, frame of mind, circumstances. Timelines and documentation of course stand up much better.

 

I have to ask - your icon, is that Larry from Three's Company?

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That in no way disagrees with what I stated. Spielberg gave an initial idea, but ultimately left the creativity up to Howard as he had with Raiders, which is why he handpicked Howard. Howard spent two days doing the basic design for E.T. then had a meeting with Spielberg, Ray Kassar, Skip Paul, and Lyle Rains (who was working on the coin-op version), at which time Spielberg approved the concept and it moved on. Just as with Raiders, he kept checking in during the process to see how things were progressing and saw the final game which he gave his approval to as well. What we have directly came from Howard (multiple phone interviews, email, skype, and in person when we were out there by him last year), as well as his manager, and Ray Kassar, and internal documentation. There are no disagreements.

Retro Rogue,

you had said Howard wasn't given creative license to design something other than what Spielberg wanted - now you agree with Howard and say the opposite; there's no disagreement because you've changed your mind :)

Not what happened at all. Pac-Man had already started tanking by the Summer of '82, and we have the production memo to stop producing Pac-Man and stop using it as a pack-in before E.T. was even released.

I have a different perspective here; I think that's exactly what happened and that the memo you've cited is only reflective of market demand and not the close corollary you suggest. To stop producing PacMan merely means sales have dropped, not stopped (there was plenty of inventory).

 

The argument you would actually need to support here is that releasing a fun and easy to play version of their highest-profile game yet (perhaps a pacman type game like Washaw might have done if he could do it over again) would not have had the opposite effect and revitalised sales of other hit games thus in the process, marshalling the sales of many more pacmen.

 

IMO that is the close corollary and you've a tough counter-argument to make here, but I think it would make for interesting discussion!

 

btw I like your book and just because I disagree with you, doesn't mean I find your work any less entertaining! :)

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Retro Rogue,

you had said Howard wasn't given creative license to design something other than what Spielberg wanted - now you agree with Howard and say the opposite; there's no disagreement because you've changed your mind :)

 

I said no such thing and I have not changed my mind. Your comment about "creative license" made it seem like Howard was off on his own (which is what creative license usually means), and I simply clarified that Spielberg was in on the whole process and gave approval. Here's an exact clip and paste on what I stated: "Spielberg was in on the whole process, he handpicked Howard, and he was shown the game several times and loved it, enough to give it final approval. Howard was not given "creative license," He was given about a week to try and design an entire game and in the process was able to do some innovative console firsts like a full title screen and cut scenes."

 

If you took that a different way, I can't help that. But there's no mind changing here.

 

 

The argument you would actually need to support here is that releasing a fun and easy to play version of their highest-profile game yet (perhaps a pacman type game like Washaw might have done if he could do it over again) would not have had the opposite effect and revitalised sales of other hit games thus in the process, marshalling the sales of many more pacmen.

 

I already stated if there had been more time allotted they could have better planned things out. What that would have done and what ET's importance would have become for sales of all the other games has zero impact on our discussion. Pac-Man sales had already severely dropped, enough that manufacturing was stopped and they wanted to stop packing it in with the consoles as well - which shows little reliance on whatever warehouse stock there was as well since again - they wanted to stop it as a pack in. If they wanted to use up warehouse stock, they wouldn't have stopped that. Likewise, sales overall had dropped significantly to the fact that there were large amounts of overstock - which was a sign of the changing industry as insiders had already been warning. ET had nothing to do with any of that as you claimed, this was all before ET.

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I said no such thing and I have not changed my mind. Your comment about "creative license" made it seem like Howard was off on his own (which is what creative license usually means)...

Yes that's what Warshaw said too, that he was going off on his own:

 

In retrospect maybe I should have done a pacman type game like Spielberg wanted instead of coming up with something creative and new.

 

Did you have a different interpretation?

 

I already stated if there had been more time allotted they could have better planned things out. What that would have done and what ET's importance would have become for sales of all the other games has zero impact on our discussion. Pac-Man sales had already severely dropped...

"Time alloted" has little to do with Warshaw running off on his own despite that you keep bringing it up; Washaw didn't bring this up above, he just reflected that maybe he should have done what Spielberg wanted instead of running off on his own to do something creative and new.

 

It's been my observation (and experience) that coming out with another awesome game increases a software company's sales of their existing Video Games too (marketing momentum). This is hard to debate (many have observed); do you have a counter-argument?

 

The reason time-frame is a red-herring is because Washaw already established that he had decided to run off on his own to come up with something creative and new; it's unlikely that more time would have led him to return to Atari's mass appeal formula (pacman, Tank and Pong games) but more likely to have resulted in creative and new control schemes like using a Joystick and two paddles to control the character :)

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Up until recently I also subscribed to the too-little-time theory. The article by the guy who "corrected" E.T. has me thinking differently. Maybe it was a little too much for the average Atari 2600 consumer at the time. I, for one, expected to be able to play the game without reading a manual. I failed and thus E.T. failed (for me).

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Yes that's what Warshaw said too, that he was going off on his own:

 

In retrospect maybe I should have done a pacman type game like Spielberg wanted instead of coming up with something creative and new.

 

Did you have a different interpretation?

 

Once again, he did not "go off on his own." He came up with the concept in two days, presented it to Spielberg and company, they approved it, and Spielberg also gave his final approval at the completion. Going off on your own means completely going on your own, with no continued input or checks. That did not occur (though certainly once actual coding started he was immersed in a room full of pizza boxes with the graphics coder as we recounted). You're reading waaaay to much into a single statement which simply says if he had to do it over he would have taken Spielberg up on his initial suggestion. This is going directly by Howard himself and far more involved conversations and interviews than a single quote on Wikipedia. As with your "Howard related to Warner execs" rumor, I'm happy to ask Howard directly again and post the answer here.

 

 

The reason time-frame is a red-herring is because Washaw already established that he had decided to run off on his own to come up with something creative and new; it's unlikely that more time would have led him to return to Atari's mass appeal formula (pacman, Tank and Pong games) but more likely to have resulted in creative and new control schemes like using a Joystick and two paddles to control the character :)

 

 

Again, he didn't run off on his own and that creation was less than a week - which was then shared and approved and then development debugging was started in a five and a half week period - which Spielberg and company also checked in on and then again gave final approval. With having to code and debug an entire 2600 game in assembly, a process that normally took 9 months (Raiders' design and coding and debugging and test took 9 months), in 5 1/2 weeks, the normal things you talked about (control schemes, changes based on playtesting input, etc.) just wasn't available. He had to get it in for ROM mask generation by the end of the 5 1/2 weeks. If it would have been available, yes, more time would have lead to those sorts of improvements. However, one game was not going to save Atari at that point. The problems were already far too rooted and complex for that, and already far in motion.

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Once again, he did not "go off on his own." He came up with the concept in two days, presented it to Spielberg and company, they approved it, and Spielberg also gave his final approval at the completion. Going off on your own means completely going on your own, with no continued input or checks. That did not occur (though certainly once actual coding started he was immersed in a room full of pizza boxes with the graphics coder as we recounted). You're reading waaaay to much into a single statement which simply says if he had to do it over he would have taken Spielberg up on his initial suggestion. This is going directly by Howard himself and far more involved conversations and interviews than a single quote on Wikipedia. As with your "Howard related to Warner execs" rumor, I'm happy to ask Howard directly again and post the answer here.

Cool, I'd like to hear more of Howard's perspective (try to see if you can get more than a single quote).

 

Again, he didn't run off on his own and that creation was less than a week - which was then shared and approved and then development debugging was started in a five and a half week period - which Spielberg and company also checked in on and then again gave final approval. With having to code and debug an entire 2600 game in assembly, a process that normally took 9 months

9 months is really stretching it; this is largely variable. Consider that some developers could do it in a few weeks working around the clock.

(Raiders' design and coding and debugging and test took 9 months), in 5 1/2 weeks, the normal things you talked about (control schemes, changes based on playtesting input, etc.) just wasn't available.

I was kidding about using a Joystick and two paddles, but less time is all the more reason to go with a more simple formula design that's easy to play; giving the developer a lot of creative license is better for less high-profile games; win/win - great if you've got a hit on your hands but you don't take a hit if the game tanks.

He had to get it in for ROM mask generation by the end of the 5 1/2 weeks. If it would have been available, yes, more time would have lead to those sorts of improvements. However, one game was not going to save Atari at that point. The problems were already far too rooted and complex for that, and already far in motion.

IMO another hit was just what they needed and they knew it hence Warner invested a lot in that high profile deal with Spielberg; I think if Nolan were on board he would have canned the difficult-to-play game in favour of Atari formula (Tank, Pong or Pacman type game). A deal that big is actually a good argument for parallel programming where two developers (or groups) work on the same project so that management has a better chance to pick a killer app; IMO Warner was really lost without Nolan.

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