Two of the most infamous video games of all time, Pac-Man and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600, are up for sale during PWCC’s weekly auction ending on April 16th. Let’s take a look at these two notorious video games through a collecting lens. The dominant video game system in North America during the early 1980s, Pac-Man and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial are widely cited as the reasons why the Atari 2600 lost market share and eventually led to the “video game crash of 1983,” a two-year period of time when the bottom dropped out of the video game industry. It would not be resuscitated until Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985.
WATA 7.5 Atari 2600 Pac-Man
Auction item 8138 is a WATA 7.5 copy of Pac-Man for the Atari 2600. Pac-Man, Atari’s port of the iconic coin-operated arcade game, has the dual distinction of being both the best-selling game for the Atari 2600 (7.9 million units sold), but also receiving the Razzie award for being one of the worst video games of all time.
While Pac-Man’s brand helped drive some big sales for Atari, many users quickly learned Atari’s version of the game was nothing like the coin-operated machine they knew and loved in arcades around the country. Due to the 2600’s limited technological capacity, the game simply didn’t look or play anything like the game that gamers were familiar with. More than 15 years later, Next Generation magazine described Atari’s Pac-Man as the “worst coin-op conversion of all time.”
Many have cited Pac-Man’s failure as one of the major causes of the video game crash of 1983. Most likely due to its important place in video game history, a sealed version of this game remains a popular collectible today. As of Friday, April 14th, the current bid on PWCC was $145. As a point of comparison, an ungraded sealed copy of Pac-Man sold for $112 on April 12th during an auction hosted by eBay. A CGC 7.0 variant of this game (the game’s title is in blue on the box) sold for an impressive $520 on January 20th, 2023.
WATA 9.0 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Perhaps if Atari had produced a hit immediately after its disastrous Pac-Man product, we could’ve averted the video game crash in 1983. Unfortunately, Atari laid another massive egg during the 1982 holiday season: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Like its failed strategy with Pac-Man, Atari heavily relied upon E.T.’s and its own brand as opposed to focusing on video game quality (it was allegedly coded in only five weeks). Gamers wouldn’t be fooled twice though.
Unlike Pac-Man, which went on to become a best-seller, E.T. sat on shelves in stores, selling only 1.5M copies. With a second highly-publicized failure, the U.S. market lost faith in Atari and the video game industry as a whole for several years until Nintendo arrived as its savior.
Because of its notoriety, like Pac-Man, E.T. is a highly sought-after collectible today. As of Friday, April 14th, the current bid on PWCC for this copy was $105. As a reference point, a WATA 9.4 copy of E.T. sold for $499 on April 8th during an auction hosted by eBay. An ungraded sealed copy sold for $157.50 on March 16th, also on eBay.
Looking at these prices, perhaps Atari shouldn’t have buried thousands of unsold copies in a New Mexico landfill in 1983 — they could’ve made a lot of their money back!
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*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.