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

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14 hours ago, towmater said:

So in summary, Atari did not make too many E.T.'s, etc. and was not trying to hide them? These (buried carts) instead were customer returns that couldn't be resold as new? It seems wasteful, but not the insanity that the legend held?

 

43 minutes ago, sciflyer25 said:

Not even close.

I'd say it's at least pretty close. " Atari did not make too many E.T.'s" It's obviously true because they produced more carts after the initial run. " instead were customer returns" This one is iffy. It's very possible some of the carts were returns, they were basically just games taking up space in a warehouse, who's to say some weren't returned product? "but not the insanity that the legend held?" The sea of millions of E.T. carts, a game so bad everyone returned their copy and it killed off the video game industry? Yep, that was pretty insane, or maybe just dumb.

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I'm sorry, but I don't buy the narrative that people returned tons of Atari 2600 games because "they sucked."

 

I never even considered returning a game, even if it did suck. I remember getting E.T. as a kid, not because I loved the movie, but because the game looked interesting. And after I got it, I played it until I beat it, just like I did Raiders of the Lost Ark. At no point did I thin "E.T. really sucks." I figured out the basics of how to avoid falling into pits and how to get out pretty easily.

 

I had someone try to tell me "E.T. sucked because they didn't even have instructions on how to play the game." I was like, "Yes, there was an instruction book, and I own it. It is quite clear how to play the game." There are NO surprises with "impossible gameplay" or bugs in the game. It works just fine. Could it have been better? Maybe, but I thought it was fine the way it was; it was simply challenging.

 

Where Atari got itself into trouble was producing more cartridges than consoles for certain titles (like Pac-Man). Pac-Man was FAR MORE disappointing than E.T., and I believe that is the title Atari produced more cartridges than consoles. Ms. Pac-Man redeemed the Atari. 

 

Atari was 6 years old when the video game crash hit. The kids who had the Atari GREW UP. Our tastes changed. Atari was great for a 10 year-old kid. As a 16 year-old kid, we moved on. Home computers were on the scene. I was fully into the Commodore 64 and the TRS-80 by 1983, and I was learning to program the Apple IIe in high school.

 

The games on the Commodore 64 were jaw-dropping compared to the Atari 2600. We had full D&D-style adventure games, text adventure games that challenged the mind, and arcade-level games that simply could not be produced on the Atari 2600. Plus, I was starting to use the word processing capabilities of the home computer to write for class, printing with my dot matrix printer and tearing off the spindle-edges.

 

E.T. was not the only game on the market and it in no way killed the industry. It was not responsible for killing the Atari, the Intellivision, the ColecoVision, or any of the other consoles available at the time. The kids simply grew up and switched technologies.

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Allow me to continue with another example...

 

In 1999, a company called "Research in Motion" released a novel new product: The Blackberry

They had been around for a few years and had released a different product earlier in 1996 called "[email protected] Pager 900."

In 2002, Blackberry became the first company to include push-email service on their phones.

By 2013, there were more than 85 million Blackberry users across the globe.

By 2016, there were only 23 million Blackberry users left on the planet. Android and IPhone had dominance in the market.

 

Blackberry fell behind due to a failure to innovate, in spite of a variety of new models introduced over the years. People went elsewhere because technology improved with smartphones.

 

While Atari sold home Pong units before the 2600 hit the market, the 2600 held market dominance for 6 years. Atari failed to innovate quickly and they were left in the dust by the computer wars of the 1980's. The Atari computers were a novel idea, and they were produced until 1993, but they never captured the market like the competition. The most popular Atari computer during the 16 bit era was the Atari 1040STf (1986). It was all downhill from there. By 1993, it was over for the Atari PC era.

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6 hours ago, high voltage said:

I used to  love my Blackberry

I still love my Atari 2600 E.T.

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7 hours ago, keithbk said:

I'm sorry, but I don't buy the narrative that people returned tons of Atari 2600 games because "they sucked."

 

I never even considered returning a game, even if it did suck. I remember getting E.T. as a kid, not because I loved the movie, but because the game looked interesting. And after I got it, I played it until I beat it, just like I did Raiders of the Lost Ark. At no point did I thin "E.T. really sucks." I figured out the basics of how to avoid falling into pits and how to get out pretty easily.

This exactly.    There are plenty of underwhelming titles for the 2600,  why weren't returns a problem for them?  Where's the landfill full of Swordquest games or Pac Man games?    The explanation that they overestimated demand for the game and produced far too many carts makes for more sense.

 

8 hours ago, keithbk said:

E.T. was not the only game on the market and it in no way killed the industry. It was not responsible for killing the Atari, the Intellivision, the ColecoVision, or any of the other consoles available at the time. The kids simply grew up and switched technologies.

Some of us moved on to computers, but a lot of kids seemed to just drop out of videogames entirely for awhile.   This was right around the time MTV got big and the schoolyard conversations suddenly switched from the latest videogames to Michael Jackson, Def Leppard, Cyndi Lauper, etc.  A lot of the arcades closed.  It was never as "cool" to own an Atari 8-bit or C64 as it was to own a 2600 or Intellivision just a few years earlier.   All this can't be because of ET on a single console.

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2 hours ago, fiddlepaddle said:

Yet, the legend lives on...

The legend was pretty much proven true. Can't take things literally word for word.  It was about what led to the crash, and ET happened to be one of the biggest flops, which led to the vendor burial due to supply and demand (basic economics), hence the legend.

If the team had the green light to dig for a few weeks and spread out the permitted area, do you not think there would be many more ET and other game cartridges found?  How many more underground mausoleums with Atari overstock are out there?

 

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38 minutes ago, sciflyer25 said:

The legend was pretty much proven true. Can't take things literally word for word.  It was about what led to the crash, and ET happened to be one of the biggest flops, which led to the vendor burial due to supply and demand (basic economics), hence the legend.

If the team had the green light to dig for a few weeks and spread out the permitted area, do you not think there would be many more ET and other game cartridges found?  How many more underground mausoleums with Atari overstock are out there?

 

Nah, it absolutely was not. The carts buried were random stock and most recovered weren't E.T. The sea of millions of E.T.'s is a myth as it stands. But hey let no one discourage you from raising the $$$ to spread out and investigate some more. I personally won't hold my breath, but I do believe in you.

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Anyone here see the documentary? Most of what they found was not E.T.. I'm not saying that E.T. was really a stellar game, I never particularly found much interest in it... but I don't think it was a bad game. Certainly, it's way better than 1000s of other Atari games which are just variations of weirdly shaped blocks moving around the screen. I think the reality is... Atari was in bad shape... it was long in the tooth, and the market was changing rapidly. US customers were starting to get interested in the kinds of games that Atari didn't really provide. Atari grew too big, too quickly, and didn't really do a great job planning for the future or the pace of the marketplace. As a kid... I distinctly remember the Atari 2600 and the 8-bit Nintendo coexisting in the same time period. Now, I recognize the Atari 2600 came out in like, what, 1976? I was born in 78, and played it regularly until the mid 1980s. I remember when the 8-bit Nintendo came out, which was 1985... and I was enthralled. My parents had a little bit of money growing up, so I had an 8088 computer and was already getting into computers. I'd stopped playing my Atari 2600 except for rare instances, and mostly what I played was Solaris, Pac Man, Pac Man Jr, and a few other games like that (Maze Craze, etc.). But the Atari 2600 seemed so old by 1985. My parents refused to let me buy the 8-Bit Nintendo, so I did odd jobs around the neighborhood and earned enough to buy the Nintendo. I bought it myself with bags of coins and 1 dollar bills (lady at Toys R' Us was PISSED!).

 

The video game crash was around that time you guys say? 1986? I don't think anyone told Nintendo... because it was all we talked about in school, and no one really cared about the Atari 2600 anymore... though I did have a couple of friends, and we'd swap cartridges from time to time in school. Anyway... I think Atari was just long in the tooth, and they hadn't really kept up. What likely happened is Atari realized they had so much overstock. For those who understand how retail works... for product that doesn't sell, the manufacturer at times (depending on the agreements) will often have to accept back the unsold merchandise at the manufacturer's extent. Sometimes, the manufacturer just chooses to let it go for almost nothing (depend on what they negotiate), and then the store will liquidate it at either a loss to the store or the manufacturer. Dumping hundreds of thousands of more cartridges into the marketplace simply increases the loss... not only from the logistics cost, but the value of the existing games that are on the store shelves... think "deflation." The more product available, the less the value of the product and the cheaper it is. This is not what the retail stores want, and likely why Atari was forced to do this. By dumping all of the overstock, returns, and excess product, they can claim "LOSS" on their taxes.

 

I think hauling multiple trucks of Atari games to a remote landfill in the middle of no where sounds mythological... but in reality, it was probably just the cheapest and easiest thing to do. At the time, they didn't really have "shredders" that could take material like that... which normal businesses could purchase. You certainly couldn't rent one, and the infrastructure to provide such a device wasn't something that really existed. People didn't recycle computers or electronic hardware back then, and there was no sense of security for old hard drives and magnetic media. People literally just threw old hard drives away in the trash. So shredders (like we have today) weren't really a thing except in automotive recycling... and a junkyard has no interest in pushing a bunch of plastic crap through their recycler. It makes simple, logical sense, that the cheapest thing for them to do was to ship it all to a junkyard far away as financially possible from "Atari Fans" ... and then load it up and fill it in. The cost is literally nothing more than the cost of trucking (which wouldn't have been much at the time), and the cost for dumping in the landfill... which also would not have been much at the time.

 

So... the simplest explanation is likely that. But one question... has anyone bothered to ask former Atari employees? I'm sure this decision wasn't made by one person, but likely by the CEO (was it Bushnell at the time, or maybe Trameil)? Either way... I doubt the CEO made the call, but probably some staffer, maybe even a secretary or someone in their logistics department. Seems this would be a simple ask if you could talk to someone formerly from Atari HR, ask them if they remember who worked for Atari in those departments, and then cold-call them and ask them if they wouldn't mind being interviewed.

 

 

Also kind of fun, I went to visit Alamagordo when the family and I were going through New Mexico for vacation. I brought up the Atari landfill thing, and several people I talked to knew about it. My wife thought I was crazy. I talked to one of the guys at the Alamagordo Zoo (forget the actual name), and he said that he remembers the crew coming out and digging up looking for Atari games... and a couple of people remember the whole lore around it.

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The Video Game Crash 1983/84 happened because

I MADE IT SO!!!

 

And I buried ALL Video Games around the World!!!

Edited by high voltage
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35 minutes ago, 82-T/A said:

The video game crash was around that time you guys say? 1986? I don't think anyone told Nintendo

It was approx 83-85 with consoles showing signs of life again in 86.   Nintendo was well aware of it.   They included a robot in early NESes to try to convince retailers that it wasn't just a games console (retailers wanted nothing to do with games consoles at the time).  Nintendo also built the lockout tech and had strict control over the number of games third parties could release on the NES because they figured that oversupply caused the crash.

 

41 minutes ago, 82-T/A said:

has anyone bothered to ask former Atari employees? I'm sure this decision wasn't made by one person, but likely by the CEO (was it Bushnell at the time, or maybe Trameil)?

Kassar, I think.

 

43 minutes ago, 82-T/A said:

I think hauling multiple trucks of Atari games to a remote landfill in the middle of no where sounds mythological... but in reality, it was probably just the cheapest and easiest thing to do.

I think it's possible that they disposed of carts in this way.   I think the mythological part is how they turned ET into this scapegoat..  The landfill is full of ET because the game single-handedly destroyed an entire industry.  In reality if any single game damaged the industry it was probably 2600 Pac-man.  That was a highly anticipated and highly disappointing game.   After that, the next most highly anticipated game was Donkey Kong.  Again a disappointment on 2600 and Intellivision.   After the biggest name arcade games came home and let them down, I wonder how many people just started to lose interest in the scene?  I suspect more than a few.   ET wasn't a game that anyone asked for.   It was a tie-in with the hottest movie of the year.  Atari figured it should sell a ton of carts based on name alone.  And Atari was right, it definitely should have.  The fact that it sold way fewer than expected I think was a sign people were already losing interest in games due to other reasons.

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

...  Again a disappointment on 2600 and Intellivision.   After the biggest name arcade games came home and let them down, I wonder how many people just started to lose interest in the scene?  I suspect more than a few.   ET wasn't a game that anyone asked for.  ... The fact that it sold way fewer than expected I think was a sign people were already losing interest in games due to other reasons.

 

My parents bought my brother a fully loaded Atari 5200 with a couple of extra games, and the track ball. When we opened it up and hooked it up on Christmas day, the graphics were so much better than the Atari 2600 (remember... even slight change was noticeable back then). But the controllers were broken, and we couldn't move Pac Man, no matter how hard we tried... he would get stuck to the left, and that was it. I don't even remember if it was because the joystick was non-self centering (was it?) or if the controllers were both basically broken, but we could not actually play the game.

 

My mom returned it, and didn't exchange it. I was devastated... she never got another. I bought the NES right after that...

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17 minutes ago, 82-T/A said:

 

My parents bought my brother a fully loaded Atari 5200 with a couple of extra games, and the track ball. When we opened it up and hooked it up on Christmas day, the graphics were so much better than the Atari 2600 (remember... even slight change was noticeable back then). But the controllers were broken, and we couldn't move Pac Man, no matter how hard we tried... he would get stuck to the left, and that was it. I don't even remember if it was because the joystick was non-self centering (was it?) or if the controllers were both basically broken, but we could not actually play the game.

 

My mom returned it, and didn't exchange it. I was devastated... she never got another. I bought the NES right after that...

Yeah, I loved the graphics on the 5200, but the controller is AWFUL. I have the system, but I don't recall playing it but a few times. It was a total waste. Big, bulky, and an overall horrible console.

Edited by keithbk

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53 minutes ago, keithbk said:

Yeah, I loved the graphics on the 5200, but the controller is AWFUL. I have the system, but I don't recall playing it but a few times. It was a total waste. Big, bulky, and an overall horrible console.

I didn't buy a 5200 specifically because the controllers never worked on the demo units in the stores. Atari really shot themselves in the foot (feet?) with that one.

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34 minutes ago, Nathan Strum said:

I didn't buy a 5200 specifically because the controllers never worked on the demo units in the stores. Atari really shot themselves in the foot (feet?) with that one.

I chalk it down to "Membrane Madness."

 

I'm a big lover of the Suncom Slik Stik joystick because of the simplicity of design. If you've taken one apart, you will know what I mean. It's easy to clean the contact points and it's a great tight controller. But the membrane stuff and the sloppy joystick feel of the 5200 was a system-killer for me.

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9 hours ago, zzip said:

I think it's possible that they disposed of carts in this way.   I think the mythological part is how they turned ET into this scapegoat..  The landfill is full of ET because the game single-handedly destroyed an entire industry.  In reality if any single game damaged the industry it was probably 2600 Pac-man.  That was a highly anticipated and highly disappointing game.   After that, the next most highly anticipated game was Donkey Kong.  Again a disappointment on 2600 and Intellivision.   After the biggest name arcade games came home and let them down, I wonder how many people just started to lose interest in the scene?  I suspect more than a few.   ET wasn't a game that anyone asked for.   It was a tie-in with the hottest movie of the year.  Atari figured it should sell a ton of carts based on name alone.  And Atari was right, it definitely should have.  The fact that it sold way fewer than expected I think was a sign people were already losing interest in games due to other reasons.

This.  So much this.  It perfectly echoes my memory of the period and and the disappointment I felt for exactly the same reasons...and it *WASN'T* a glut of cheap third-party titles.  Yes, that happened...but yes, it WAS Pac-Man that started the slide downhill.  Shovelware didn't kill...shit "AAA" titles did.

 

At that point, one of two things happened - if you were older (born early 70s), you headed for computers instead with their higher level of sophistication and programmable capability (not to mention *cough*piracy*cough*).  If you were younger (born late 70s), you went Nintendo.

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23 hours ago, moycon said:

Nah, it absolutely was not. The carts buried were random stock and most recovered weren't E.T. The sea of millions of E.T.'s is a myth as it stands. But hey let no one discourage you from raising the $$$ to spread out and investigate some more. I personally won't hold my breath, but I do believe in you.

Although I disagree with your assessment of the discussion, and it seems that you have a tenuous grasp on the English language in general, I appreciate your full support mate!

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We got ET as a Christmas gift, as well as pretty much everyone else I knew with an Atari that season.  And we played it, had fun, and never complained or even thought that it was a bad game.  We figured out how to not fall in holes or if you did, get out of them.   Later on when we went to other's houses with it where they didn't know how to play, we'd show them how by winning a game.

 

As kids we had no idea there was a "video game crash", I didn't know about it until years later.  However, I do remember going to stores and sometimes mom or dad would let us pick a $2-$5 game out of the bargain bin.  In hindsight that was obviously a result of the crash, but we had no idea, there was just a tub of cheap games at Kay-Bee!

 

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There's something back then that even the crappiest of the crap games, you still went back and played. A lost feeling in todays gaming world with the amount of sources out there. Looking back, I did have some dog and many people consider dogs. Some games come to mind: E.T. (even enjoyed back then), Donkey Kong (didn't care if it was missing levels), to the really low points like Swordquest games, Imagic Firefighter, and heaven forbid - Firefly. Even something about the last games I mentioned... I still played, not going to throw the enjoy feeling there, and I still never thought about returning it. Hell, I even picked out and bought Firefly at K&B Toys.

 

Now that this topic was brought up, did people here that waited in line and purchased Pac-man on release date, return it since it didn't meet your arcade expectations?

 

I was one of the fortunate, or should I say unfortunate, to live through the crash as well. Little did we know that buying these games uber cheap would result new games of our favorite systems coming to a halt. I did have a bad feeling when department stores like Sears, Zayre, Montgomery Wards and Kmart did not have a videogame section anymore after the fact. Only places I knew to purchase games back then were toy stores: Toys r Us and K&B. Most of us that lived in that 1985 era know how much of a wasteland it was for the console gamers; I even resorted to hanging out with a kid with a C64 - not saying that was a bad thing, hated the kid but liked his c64 lol.

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Regarding Pac Man... I loved Pac Man, it's still one of my favorite games on the Atari 2600, and never once was I disappointed with the game. Granted, I thought Pac Man Jr. and Ms. Pac Man were more advanced games, but I still always went back and played Pac Man. Matter of fact, this thread is the first place where I'd ever heard that anyone took issue with the game. Not saying it isn't true, just that it's news to me.

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15 minutes ago, schuwalker said:

Now that this topic was brought up, did people here that waited in line and purchased Pac-man on release date, return it since it didn't meet your arcade expectations?

 

My family preordered Atari 2600 Pac-Man at Woolco. Didn't have to stand in any lines. We didn't know you could return a game once it was opened. We didn't get the balls to return a game until 1984.

 

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories-favorite-games.html#pacman

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23 hours ago, schuwalker said:

I was one of the fortunate, or should I say unfortunate, to live through the crash as well. Little did we know that buying these games uber cheap would result new games of our favorite systems coming to a halt. I did have a bad feeling when department stores like Sears, Zayre, Montgomery Wards and Kmart did not have a videogame section anymore after the fact. Only places I knew to purchase games back then were toy stores: Toys r Us and K&B. Most of us that lived in that 1985 era know how much of a wasteland it was for the console gamers; I even resorted to hanging out with a kid with a C64 - not saying that was a bad thing, hated the kid but liked his c64 lol.

I still bought new full-price games, but padded out my collection with $5 and under games

 

23 hours ago, 82-T/A said:

Regarding Pac Man... I loved Pac Man, it's still one of my favorite games on the Atari 2600, and never once was I disappointed with the game. Granted, I thought Pac Man Jr. and Ms. Pac Man were more advanced games, but I still always went back and played Pac Man. Matter of fact, this thread is the first place where I'd ever heard that anyone took issue with the game. Not saying it isn't true, just that it's news to me.

Really?  seems like common knowledge.   But 2600 Pac Man is kind of polarizing.     Seems like people who fell in love with the arcade Pac-man found the 2600 version to be a bitter disappointment because it did everything differently even though it didn't have to.   However people who never played it in the arcade or were indifferent to the arcade version found the 2600 version to be fun.

 

23 hours ago, Random Terrain said:

 

My family preordered Atari 2600 Pac-Man at Woolco. Didn't have to stand in any lines. We didn't know you could return a game once it was opened. We didn't get the balls to return a game until 1984.

I only ever recall returning one game:   Sneak N Peek.    But it was because it didn't feel like a "proper" video game.   Two player only, and you had to trust the other person wasn't going to peek while you were hiding

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A lot of us remember growing up on cheap cardboard toys, so it never entered my mind to return a video game unless it didn't work.

 

What do I mean by "cardboard toys?" Well, I'm talking about playsets that were nothing more than cardboard:

1da6d84b45ea47583ef9ae6610246134.jpg

 

Even the Star Wars line had cardboard toys mixed with plastic bases:

 

025.JPG&f=1&nofb=1

 

hothiceplanet.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

 

 

deathstar.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

 

If we kept this stuff, even though it was nothing more than printed cardboard, what would make anyone think we would return "E.T." when it at least had a title screen and an animated landing scene at the beginning.

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As a kid, I knew nothing about the crash and had just come to accept that nearly all 2600 games were going to be inferior to their arcade counterpart.  As a kid, I looked past the game quality and was just happy to have Pac-Man (or whatever game) at home rather than waiting in line at an arcade to plunk a quarter in the machine.  I don't remember anyone at school talking bad of the game, except the one guy who bragged about how much better KC Munchkin was on his Odyssey.  We mostly bragged (or lied) about our high scores.

 

The only game I ever asked my parents return as a kid was Asteroids.  That was just because my 9-year-old self didn't RTFM to know that you needed the difficulty switch on "A" to get the satellites.  My parents also didn't read the manual or understand the game well enough to know what I was talking about.  Even with that, we just exchanged the game for another copy of Asteroids and I eventually figured out the effect of the difficulty switch on this game.

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