Cinepile: Atari, Game Over

Cinepile: Atari, Game Over

Watch the trailer for a documentary about the fall of the Atari gaming empire.

What do you do if you make a shit video game that nobody likes? Well, if you’re one of the fastest growing companies in American history, like Atari, you make a big hole in the New Mexico desert, and bury your video game shit like a dog.

Well, that’s how the urban legend goes, in any case. Dubbed 'The Great Video Game Burial of 1983' (it has its own Wiki page), the fall of the Atari Corporation remains one of the biggest mysteries of all time (well... depending on your gaming interest level). In the 80s, Atari manufactured a spin-off game based on the success of the Spielberg film E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Despite striking a $20 million deal with Spielberg to produce five million copies of the game, Atari only managed to sell 1.5 million. It was one of the company's most commercially unsuccessful ventures in history and was panned by gaming critics and fans alike.

Supposedly, Atari disposed of 3.5 million copies of unsold E.T. video game cartridges, by burying them in a small town in New Mexico. We say 'supposedly' because it was a rumour only whispered about in video game circles: "The dreams of a generation buried underneath the garbage", depending which video nerd game you asked. Until, in April 2014, director Zak Penn (X-Men 2 and Avengers), along with Larry Hryb from Microsoft, with a bunch of gamers, headed to the landfill where the videogames were supposedly buried to exhume the site, and determine whether the story had merit.

ET ATARI

It did. The crew discovered the games, in shrink wrap - 1,300 games found became property of Mexico, the rest fetched $37,000 in an online auction from nostalgic bidders around the world. To everybody else, it was still just a bunch of garbage in the landfill. 

In the film Atari: Game Over, director Zak Penn documents the dig, interviews Atari staff, including the game’s creator, delving the video game industry at the time, and the business deals and thinking that set in motion the first big video game industry crash. Prior til now, the X-Box Originals documentary has only been available on X-Box, but is now getting a cinematic release on February 2.

Watch the trailer below, along with a video interview from WIRED, featuring Zak Penn talking about the documentary.

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