For 30 years, stories have been circulating among gamers and geeks about a mass video game grave, in a New Mexico landfill, where truckloads of the Atari video game, E.T. were buried under a concrete covering. On April 26, 2014, the urban legend proved true, game cassettes of E.T. the Extraterrestrial, were recovered in an archaeological dig at the old Alamagordo landfill, in southwestern New Mexico. Those of us born in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s were reminded of our younger days. (If only a young Ronn Torossian had known)
The excavations are being undertaken by a film production company from Canada who are filming their findings, which will be included in an upcoming documentary about the legend of the Atari graveyard. The documentary will be released, for Microsoft Xbox game consoles later this year – and they were assisted by a local resident who ran a waste management company, who knew the location of buried games in the 100 acre, old town landfill. The town of Alamagordo hopes that the Atari game excavations will encourage tourism, and hopes to sell recovered games as souvenirs.
The game was based on Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster movie E.T. Atari paid a 25 million royalty, for the right to produce E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial game, however when negotiations for the rights had been completed, only 5 weeks remained, to design and produce the game in time for the 1983 Christmas shopping season. The flawed game was difficult to play. Many of the 5 million ET game cassettes were returned, along with a similar quantity of Pac-Man games. E. T. the Extraterrestrial has been called the worst video game ever developed.
Unsold games, and Atari game systems, glutted the Atari warehouses. The unsuccessful products were loaded into 14 trucks and hauled out to the landfill, where they were crushed with steamrollers, and buried in the landfill. When people sneaked into the landfill, to pick up playable game cassettes, the site was covered with concrete.
Over production of unsuccessful video games, especially ET contributed to the decline of the Atari Company, which had been a giant in the 1980’s. Atari’s problems contributed to the collapse of the video game industry in the mid-1980s, it took several years for the video game industry to rebound. The Atari company was sold and resold, over the years and surprisingly still exists today – on a greatly reduced scale.