E.T. designer on 'bringing down games industry'

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 22 February 2016
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial film

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial film

Howard Scott Warshaw, the designer of video game 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial', has revealed he became "depressed" after the title flopped but joked it is "awesome" to be credited with bringing down the video game industry

The designer of video game 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' joked it's "awesome" to be credited with bringing down the video game industry.

Howard Scott Warshaw was given just five weeks to make the game instead of the usual six to eight months in 1982 to ensure it was released in the same month as the Steven Spielberg-directed movie, and while he managed that the game has since been dubbed the worst of all time.

He said: "It's awesome to be credited with single-handedly bringing down a billion-dollar industry with eight kilobytes of code. But the truth is a little more complex."

Atari paid a reported $21 million for the video game rights to the movie but the title flopped, selling just 1.5 million units when they were aiming for four million sales and resulted in the value of its parent company Warner Communications plunging.

After announcing $310 million losses in 1983, Warner sold Atari for $240m in 2004.

Howard became "depressed" following ET the Extra-Terrestrial's demise and he quit the games industry before going on to retrain as a psychotherapist in 2008.

He told BBC News Magazine: "I took some time off to recover from the whole experience. I went into real estate for a couple of years and hated it.

"Eventually I went back to technology, returning to video games as a manager and director, but it had lost the charm by then.

"I knew I was done with the industry but I couldn't envision an alternative. I became depressed."

Speaking about being a psychotherapist, he said: "Maybe a part of me really wanted to compensate for all the trauma and depression I created with the ET game.

"But in reality it's something I always wanted to do."

The designer admits the game wasn't "perfect" when he had finished it but he doesn't think it's the worst of all time.

He added: "Is ET really the worst game of all time? Probably not. But the story of the fall of the video game industry needed a face and that was ET.

"I actually prefer it when people do identify it as the worst game of all time because I also did Yars Revenge and that's frequently identified as one of the best of all time. So between the two, I have the greatest range of any designer in history!"

'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' sees players guide the gentle alien through a number of screens in a bid to find pieces of an interplanetary telephone which, when built, will enable him to phone home.

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