Atari ‘E.T.’ Landfill Excavation: Proof Of Gaming’s Greatest Urban Legend Found In New Mexico [PHOTOS]
Gaming’s greatest urban legend, the tale of Atari dumping millions of unsold “E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial” cartridges in a New Mexico landfill, has been proven true. As part of an upcoming Xbox Entertainment Studios documentary, an excavation crew went to the New Mexico desert to find the legendary landfill and discovered several “E.T.” cartridges.
The legend of the Atari 2600 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” video game begins in 1982 as Atari is negotiating the rights to turn the film into a video game. The game, in theory, would be ready for the holidays, which would mean big sales and a huge profit for Atari. Of course, “E.T.” the video game did not turn out as planned.
Howard Scott Warshaw, game designer of “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial,” spoke about the game’s development with The A.V. Club. Atari negotiated the rights for “E.T.” with Steven Spielberg and agreed to pay $22 million in late July 1982. For Warshaw, that meant he had just five weeks to make the game, which was unheard of at that time. Warshaw said of the task given to him by Atari, “I liked the idea of this huge technical challenge, to try and produce a full game in six weeks. Actually, it was five weeks. It was the end of July, and it had to be ready on September 1. Because to make the Christmas season, it would have to go into production by September 1, and they did not want to miss that Christmas season.”
“E.T.” turned out to be a really bad game and Atari had millions of unsold cartridges. The failure of “E.T.” is cited as one of the main reasons for the video game industry crash of 1983. As legend has it, the company decided to bury the cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico.
Over time, the story of the Atari “E.T.” landfill has become part of pop culture and one of the most enduring video game legends. In the A.V. Club interview, Warshaw did not believe in the landfill legend but the crew excavating the site at Alamogordo, New Mexico discovered several copies of the game.
Larry Hyrb, director of programming for Xbox Live, was among the team working at the Atari landfill location in New Mexico and posted pictures on Twitter of the “E.T.” cartridges. The public was invited to observe the dig and Zak Penn, who has worked as a writer for “The Avengers” and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” is directing the documentary of the Atari “E.T.” landfill excavation.
In a post on Twitter, Hryb says, “We found ’em!” In addition to the “E.T.” cartridges, the excavation crew also found a copy of “Centipede” and “Missile Command.” The excavation team will spend the rest of Saturday and the next few months digging up the now-confirmed Atari landfill. According to KRQE, the documentary crew will get to keep 250 cartridges or 10 percent of the total number cartridges found, whichever is greater.