E.T. never made it home — Atari graveyard dug up in New Mexico desert

Atari Landfill

The biggest myth in the gaming world is that hardcore gamers actually do get laid. The jury is still out.

Another major myth involves the classically awful Atari game E.T. and thousands of copies of the game being buried in a New Mexico desert. That’s true.

Here’s a little back story for non-gamers and people born after 1983 —

E.T. was designed to cash-in on the massive success of the Steven Spielberg flick. The movie was released, and exploded, in the summer which gave developers just five weeks to secure the rights to the game and finish it in time to cash in on the pending Christmas gift market. This left little time to actually test the game. Well, it blew. I remember playing it and thinking “this game blows” and feel free to quote 7-year-old me.

The game sold fairly well — over 1.5 million cartridges sold — but the initial production run was around 5 million. This left a ton of inventory that never moved because the game was buried by bad word of mouth. So the left over games took a dirt nap, literally buried, in the sands of the New Mexico desert. Last week, the games came up to the surface to say “E.T. still blows.”

The game’s failure became legendary in the industry and has even been cited as a cause of a 97 percent drop in video game revenues in North America in just two years. In fairness, ET is more symbolic of an oversaturation of poor-quality games than a cause in itself. The story always went that Atari had so many copies of ET left over that it put them into landfill near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Whether that was true, and how many cartridges were involved, has always been disputed.

Production company Fuel Entertainment has been working to make an original documentary on the collapse of Atari in the early 80s and bought the rights to excavate the landfill. It’s since reached a deal for the documentary to be available through Xbox consoles.

On Saturday diggers began excavating the site and found it did indeed contain copies of the game. They are still in reasonably good cosmetic condition, though there’s no real hope they’ll be playable.

James Heller, who oversaw the original burial, says that more than 700,000 cartridges were put into the ground and not just the extra terrestrial.

ET Graveyard Dug Up In New Mexico Desert [Geeks are Sexy]