Archive entry by Ste Pickford on Fri, 10 Jul 2009
Subject: ET and the Cosmic Garden
This is the sixth (of 64!) plant drawing from the encyclopaedia in our Gameboy Colour game 'ET and the Cosmic Garden'.
Being invited to pitch for a game based on the ET license was a bit of a poisoned chalice. Everyone in video games knows that the original ET game on the old Atari system practically wiped out the whole video game industry in the early 1980s, and there are still stories of caves and landfill sites full of unsold cartridges of that game.
This time around the game was to tie in with the re-release of the movie to mark the (25th?) anniversary of the original release. The publisher we were working for told us that the film company would be spending a fortune on promoting this movie for a new generation of kids, and it would be almost like a brand new summer blockbuster. Presumably our publisher also paid a fortune to the movie company for the rights to make video games to tie in with this re-release. They had about 5 or 6 different ET games planned, on different formats, and we were hired to make two of them - this one on the GameBoy Colour, and a higher end GameCube version.
In the end the movie was re-released with barely anyone noticing. The games clearly weren't going to be big hits. Our publisher ran out of money because they'd spent everything they had on the license to make these ET games. We got this game finished and out, but our publisher must have been relying on money from pre-orders of their other ET games from retailers and distributors to keep going. The retailers and distributors weren't interested in a game about a forgotten 25 year old movie, so hardly ordered anything. We were about half way through the GameCube version when our publisher just decided to stop paying us - owing us about $1m - but kept stringing us along with promises of money in the hope of getting the final version so that they could release that and at least get a bit of cash. We wouldn't have seen any of that cash if we did hand over the finished version of course.
This was one of the reasons our studio, Zed Two, closed around 2004. It's a shame as the GameCube version was looking pretty good too, and had some really nice stuff in there, mainly the work of Bone and Warren Lancashire.
I'll try and dig up some screenshots of it for a future blog.
So in the end, this ET video game didn't destroy the whole video game industry. Just our studio.