One of gaming’s most popular stories is the one about there being hundreds of thousands of copies of Atari’s E.T. buried in the New Mexico desert. In 1983, the video game market crashed, largely thanks to Atari’s downfall after their disastrous E.T. licensing gamble. In 1982, Steven Spielberg released his famous E.T. movie in theatres; to coincide with the film’s release, Atari purchased the rights to develop a game for their Atari 2600 home console. That licensing deal cost them $20 million, which for 1982 was an INSANE amount of money. The game was rushed to market in an attempt to cash in on the holiday season. Unfortunately the game was rubbish and Atari was left with hundreds of thousands of copies that were, for all intents and purposes, unsellable.
The story goes that once the home video game market crashed in the early 1980s, Atari dumped truckloads of game cartridges at this specific New Mexico landfill, because the landfill content was crushed and buried under concrete.
Excavation of the New Mexico landfill kicked off in April, and within a few hours of starting, the team uncovered copies of E.T. as well as other Atari 2600 hundred games like Centipede.
Now all that remains to be seen is how many copies were actually buried. The original New York Times article (which was published on 28 September 1983) makes mention of “14 truckloads of discarded game cartridges” being buried. So far the excavation has uncovered “hundreds” of copies of E.T. but not quite 14 truckloads as yet.
This whole thoroughly geeky excavation is being filmed and turned into a documentary with a working title of “Atari: Game Over”. It’s being backed by Microsoft and will form part of their push into console television offerings. You can expect to watch the whole documentary via an Xbox 360 or Xbox One sometime in the future.