E.T. the movie was a huge commercial success, universally praised by critics, and it greatly elevated the bottom lines of Universal Pictures. E.T. the video game was a huge commercial flop, widely considered to be among the worst games of all time, and partly responsible for the crushing losses posted by Atari — and, as some contend, the crash of the home-video-game industry that followed a few years later.
The game, a brazen attempt to cash in on the success of the movie, was destined for failure. A deal to produce an E.T. title for the popular Atari 2600 game system wasn’t inked until late July 1982. That left talented game designer Howard Warshaw a scant five weeks to make a game ready to ship that holiday season. Anticipation for the video-game version of E.T. ran high — more than 1.5 million copies were sold. But reviews were scathing, and sales quickly cooled. Atari, which had spent more than $25 million to acquire the rights to the character, was stuck with as many as 3.5 million unsold cartridges, many of which were eventually buried in a landfill in New Mexico.(MORE: TIME’s Best Video Games of the Decade)