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'E.T.' video games uncovered in New Mexico landfill

'E.T.' Video Games Uncovered In New Mexico Landfill

Film crews and excavators hit paydirt at an Alamagordo, New Mexico landfill Saturday as they discovered an "extra-terrestrial" piece of video game history.

"We found an intact 'E.T.' video game. ... 'E.T.' is definitely here. You didn't come out here for nothing and this wasn't a total waste of time." (Via Alamagordo Daily News / Alex Quintana)

Led by screenwriter and director Zak Penn, crews uncovered 30-year-old video game cartridges for the Atari 2600 - one of the first game consoles. Among the discarded treasure was what some consider the worst game ever made - "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." (Via Wired, Twitter / @stevetilley)

So, what are tons of antiquated cartridges doing in a New Mexico landfill? And why are people like Penn interested in them?

Well, as it turns out, CNET says the discovery is the conclusion of a 30-year-old urban legend that some call Atari's "corporate shame." Let's take a step back in time.

The year is 1982 and the Steven Spielberg-directed film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" is a hit. So, when a movie does well, what's the next logical step? Make a video game based on the movie.

The movie was released in June of that year and according to Mashable, "Atari rushed the game into production so it would be in toy stores for Christmas 1982. Howard Warsaw, the game's developer, says he only had five weeks to build the game - including the design."

What followed was "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" game - an abomination to the gaming industry. I mean... look at it.

Mashable reports Atari spent $125 million on "E.T." The failure of that game and other flops cost Atari $500 million in 1983 and is believed to be one element of the video game crash of 1983.

It was previously believed that Atari got rid of as many as 3.5 million unsold copies of the game. The New York Times reported in 1983, "The company has dumped 14 truckloads of discarded game cartridges and other computer equipment at the city landfill in Alamogordo, N.M. Guards kept reporters and spectators away from the area yesterday as workers poured concrete over the dumped merchandise."

Over the years, the story of Atari dumping millions of unsold copies of "E.T." became folklore with Warshaw telling A.V. Club in 2005 "I doubt that actually happened."

Fast-forward nearly a decade and Penn, along with Fuel Entertainment, Xbox Entertainment Studios and Lightbox partnered to make a documentary about Atari's fall and the mysterious burial of all those games.

And sure enough, they found what they were looking for - cartridges of the game, with some intact. And Warshaw, who once doubted the existence of all those games, was even on hand to see those recovered cartridges. He's the guy in the blue shirt. (ViaTwitter / @majornelson, @zakpenn, @kobunheat)

The Alamagordo Daily News said the exact number of "E.T." cartridges is unknown, but previous reports put the estimate at 14-19 truckloads. The documentary on the excavation is expected to be released sometime this year.

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hsspecialty April 27 2014 at 9:47 AM

I have that game. I was about 7 when it came out and loved it. Wow do I feel dumb now knowing that I loved a game as a child that the whole world hated. We used to buy every Atari game at KMart. Well they are going out of business too. That was the 80's, this is now. Sad

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o2bncapecod hsspecialty April 27 2014 at 11:24 AM

Still have one of those football games and works great. Anyone wanna buy it?

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o2bncapecod April 27 2014 at 11:27 AM

I think they made a handheld submarine, football and battleship game (not sure of the last but I have one). Have all 3 and work fine to this day though I haven't used them in years.

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dwellslasvegas April 27 2014 at 11:48 AM

I remember playing E.T. on Atari, I thought it was a cool game back than.

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thunder20002 April 27 2014 at 12:51 PM

i worked for Atari in 83 ,I was one of the guys that packed all those cartridges into large containers to be shipped to the landfill they let us take what ever we wanted in the last weeks before closing down..it was a great experience to work for them,,and lots of fun,

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Moongrim April 27 2014 at 10:26 AM

Almost a litany of every corporate excess. Instead of taking the time to research something and coming up with a viable product, they choose to ramrod a slapped together shamble and foist it upon the public.
And when invariably goes south. Hide it. Don't try to learn from it, just act as if it never occurred. Thus allowing such foolishness to continue unimpeded in the future.

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raidrmik67 Moongrim April 27 2014 at 11:14 AM

All of those old Atari games were really lame but that was the technology at the time, heck remember those stupid hand held "video" football/basketball games that were nothing more then a half dozen dots on a tiny video screen?

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'57mad April 27 2014 at 11:09 AM

apparently this writer has never heard of the retro gamer systems yobo,or yobo 1 yobo2 yobo3, nfc twin. game systems that now play the old games and people now collect the old games even if they were not the greatest games. just to have the games in their collections. the yobo game system is almost smaller than the cartridge it plays. http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/291120616424?lpid=82 ............. http://www.retrojunk.com/article/show/1094/the-fc-game-console

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toddpugz April 27 2014 at 1:35 PM

The movie sucked, the game sucked, there's a reason why they found it at the bottom of a landfill.

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1 reply
WADDLE05 toddpugz April 27 2014 at 1:45 PM

at the time it became the number one box office hit of all time so seem likes lots of people love it

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zeroagenow April 27 2014 at 12:13 PM

and all the cartridges are still worthless,lol

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