Last summer, a team of excavators, archaeologists, filmmakers, and video game fans unearthed the industry’s biggest secret. And today, exclusively on Xbox One and Xbox 360, you can see the story of the biggest buried not-quite-treasure in gaming: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600.
The new documentary “Atari: Game Over” tells the real-life tale of one of video game’s biggest urban legends: that, in 1983, Atari dumped thousands of unsold copies of the notoriously bad E.T. video game in a New Mexico landfill.
Produced by Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning producers Simon and Jonathan Chinn, and directed by comic book movie veteran Zak Penn, “Atari: Game Over” explores the video game industry’s first bubble and collapse, as well as the golden age of video games, through the lens of the excavation.
Penn is perhaps best known for film-writing credits like “X2: X-Men United” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” action-heavy films with big budgets. And while the actual dig site scene is described as “similar to an action scene, but on a very low budget,” the making of a documentary was a different experience for the director.
“A documentary is a search for the story,” Penn explained, “whereas I’m used to trying to preserve the story I’ve created.”
That fateful day in Alamogordo, New Mexico drew a crowd of people eager to see the legend brought to life… or the long-whispered theory debunked. As the first cartridge came up, the crew breathed a sigh of relief as their efforts were rewarded. The throngs of people present only added to the experience. Penn says he was “completely shocked” by the support from the crowd.
A feature of “Atari: Game Over,” powered by Xbox technology, is the ability to leave time-shifted comments that stay on the film’s timeline, so that your friends can see what you said as they experience the same point in the film. Additional comments are embedded by director Zak Penn thorough key moments.
As far as E.T. goes, the game has been maligned for decades as “the worst video game ever,” but Penn sees it differently. “It’s so far from the worst video game that it’s absurd. I came to appreciate it as the story unfolded.”
“Atari: Game Over” is available starting today on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox Video, and it is free for all Xbox Live subscribers to watch.