The Legend is True: Copies of ET Found in a New Mexico Landfill
Most urban legends are just that: Legends. However, gaming’s most legendary tale turned out to be true. A documentary crew doing a documentary on the history of Atari found the legendary resting place of thousands, if not millions, of copies of the failed E.T. game for the Atari 2600.
First, let’s do a little background on what was formerly just a myth.
Atari had a game based on E.T. produced for their Atari 2600 console. Given the movie’s popularity, they expected it to sell millions of copies. However, the game was a commercial flop and Atari had massively overestimated the demand for the game which left them with millions of unsold copies of E.T. To dispose of them, Atari sent between ten and twenty trucks with up to 3.5 million unsold E.T. game cartridges to a garbage dump near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
For their part, Atari still claims that they know nothing about the dump of E.T. games. An Atari spokeswoman was quoted by the Toronto Star as saying that Atari had no “corporate knowledge” about the fate of those cartridges. When the New York Times first ran this story in 1983, they got confirmation of the dumping of the game by an Atari spokesperson.
This weekend, a Canadian documentary crew from Fuel Entertainment, who are producing a documentary on Atari, along with a video game archaeologist team and backing from Microsoft finally unearthed the legendary grave site for the E.T. video game.
The actual discovery happened at around 12:30 PM Mountain time on Saturday. The archaeologist crew dug through 30 years of waste that had piled up in the landfill before they found evidence of the dump. Documentary director, Zak Penn, showed off some of the findings to the assembled crowd of press and interested fans. The crowd was in the hundreds at the start of the day but dwindled to dozens as wind, dust and that landfill smell caused people to leave early.
The extent of the find hasn’t been disclosed but Penn did show off an E.T. cartridge along with some other Atari game pamphlets, including one for a Raiders of the Lost Ark game. Whether there are actually millions of copies to be found remains to be seen, if they want to do that much digging.
So after 31 years, one of the great urban legends of gaming has been proven to be true. So what’s next? Anyone want to track down Polybius?