Following the success of the cinema movie ET the Extra-Terrestrial in June 1982, Atari began discussions with Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures for the film rights to adapt the video game. Towards the end of July of the same year, Atari announced that it acquired the exclusive rights. Although the details of the transaction were not disclosed, the rumor that Atari had paid between 20 and 25 million.
Spielberg highly recommend Howard Scott Warshaw for the design and programming. His reputation with Spielberg vien him about his work done on Raiders of the Lost Ark (the game). Due to the considerable time negotiating, the game loses a crazy temp development. Howard will have six weeks to put forward the project before 1 September 1982 deadline to be able to distribute the product during the Christmas shopping period. For comparison, the game Raiders of the Lost Ark has required six to seven months.
Instead of creating a Pack-Man-like, Warshaw rather go in originality. He wants to base his game around a story hoping retranscire the emotions he felt when watching the film. Unfortunately he has to limit his ideas because of too short development time. In the end, Warshaw designed the game with a reasonable complexity of development with respect to time given to it to realize it.
Sales start of the game with a bang but collapsed just as quickly and rapidly regain balance. Finally, ET the Extra-terrestrese still sell pretty well, the game is the same class as the eighth best selling Atari. But Atari had overstated its success, only 1.5 million produced 4 million cartridges are sold. Yet if Atari has manufactured many of their adaptation of Pac-Man cartridges, this is not the case for this game. However, they misjudged the commercial potential of their product. In late 1983, Atari night buried in inventories of goods in a dump of New Mexico, it is rumored that the unsold copies of ET were part of the batch. Always rumored Atari would do pad the place to dissuade the curious to come dig up copies.