It was the stuff of legend: Truckloads of failed E.T. video games by Atari dumped in a landfill under the veil of darkness. Now, 31 years later, a crew has unearthed the legendary stash.
A crowd of about 200 descended on the dusty New Mexico town of Alamogordo to get a glimpse of the legendary stash of failed video games dumped there back in 1983.
The E.T. game by Atari was rushed into stores for the Christmas 1982 season. Although early sales of the game were brisk, players found that it was plagued with a buggy design and poor gameplay. Players were often frustrated, for example, by the main character falling through invisible traps that were inescapable. Although over a million units were sold, nearly 3 million cartridges went unsold. This, combined with the expensive licensing with Warner Communications, made the game a financial disaster for Atari.
In September 1983, Alamogordo Daily News reported that truckloads of Atari boxes were being dumped at the city landfill. These trucks came from Atari’s El Paso warehouse. Reports and statements from Atari officials varied, leading some to call the incident a hoax.
The game has been referred to as the worst video game ever made, and is blamed in part for Atari’s decline in the mid-1980s.
The search for the infamous game cartridges is the subject of a documentary, developed in part by Xbox Entertainment Studios, to be released for the console later this year.
A spokesman for Atari told the AP that ownership of the company changed hands many times over the years, and no one really knows what else diggers might find.
Backhoe crews quickly found the famous cache of game cartridges only hours after they began digging on April 26, 2014.
It was also reported that shrinkwrapped copies of the games Centipede and Missile Command were also found at the dig site.
Close up. pic.twitter.com/inSKukibZ4
— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) April 26, 2014
One of the game’s original designers, Howard Scott Warshaw, was at the dig site to witness the unearthing of the fated game. This Vine clip below shows crews during the excavation. The city has agreed to give the excavation team 250 cartridges, or 10% of the find, whichever is greater. Mayor Susie Galea said she hoped the dig may bring more tourists into the town.
As news of the excavation broke, it didn’t take long for some readers skeptical of the story to suggest that this “find” was a hoax. They claim that the games were planted at the site by Microsoft for publicity for the film, stating that the condition of the games and the ease at which they were found are unrealistic. It should be pointed out that access to the site was limited by the city, and that the public was invited to view the dig for themselves.