Atari, 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' and One of the Most Infamous Stories in Video Game History

Atari, 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' and One of the Most Infamous Stories in Video Game History

Jun 05, 2013

E.T. Atari title screen

It’s one of the most infamous stories in video game history – how a struggling Atari, knowing an industry crash was coming, buried truckloads of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial game cartridges in a New Mexico landfill. A landfill they then paved over, apparently just to deter gaming treasure hunters from making off with their discarded loot. As far as stories go, it’s a great one – it highlights the hubris of Atari and a video game industry still in its infancy (Atari allegedly printed more copies of E.T. – widely regarded as one of the worst games in history – than there were Atari 2600s to play it on), the complete collapse of said industry, and it even adds the strange conspiracy theory twist to the tale to make it sound just plausible enough to be real, but just crazy enough to make you think it could be an urban legend. Why the secrecy about the burial? Why the concrete?

We don’t know the answers to those questions – but we might soon.

According to a local Albuquerque news outlet, a Canadian company has reached an agreement with the town of Alamogordo to excavate the landfill in a quest to find the buried cartridges as part of a new documentary. The agreement will allow Fuel Industries six months of access to the dump where the cartridges (and other electronics) were allegedly buried. The six month agreement also conveniently includes the 30-year anniversary of the original burial.

Alamogordo approves Atari excavation

As Gameological points out, the crew has their work cut out for them. The Alamodoro landfill spans 100 acres, and it’s been almost three decades since those carts were dumped. They do have a potential ace up their sleeve, in the form of Joe Lewandowski – a guy who ran a garbage company and claims he was there for the E.T. funeral.

According to a New York Times story from 1983, the mass dumping involved 14 truckloads of materials, including electronics and various cartridges created at the El Paso manufacturing plant. People were kept back from the actual dump site for some reason, because apparently Atari was worried they might actually want to dig through a landfill for a free copy of one of the worst games ever made – and then concrete was poured on top of it all. Kinda makes you think of Jimmy Hoffa. Maybe Atari buried him too.

There’s been no official word from Fuel as to why they want to make a movie about this, but we’ll update you as soon as they reveal the full focus of their project. [via The Dissolve]

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Categories: News, In Development, Geek
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