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Game Over at Old Atari Landfill

Friday, May 2, 2014

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E.T., phone home: An excavation crew and documentary team have unearthed hundreds of your game cartridges from a 300-acre New Mexico landfill.

The cartridges are for the game "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," based on the hit movie, and often referred to as the worst video game ever made.

Atari E.T. game
Photos: XBox

An excavation crew and documentary team have unearthed hundreds of Atari's "E.T." games in a New Mexico landfill, where they were buried and covered with concrete in the early 1980s.

About 200 people gathered early Saturday (April 26) to watch the bulldozers dig up the landfill, reported.

Rush Order

In December 2013, Fuel Entertainment and a local garbage contractor, Joe Lewandowski, acquired rights to excavate the Alamogordo landfill.

Xbox Entertainment Studios was then roped in, and it hopes to use the footage for an upcoming documentary, "Atari: Game Over."

Production on the E.T. game was rushed to make it onto store shelves by Christmas in 1982. To break even, Atari had to sell out of its five million units—but only 3.5 million had sold by the following fall, at which the point the company was already falling apart.

Nearly 1M Games

James Heller, a former Atari manager invited to the dig site, said the company had put him in charge of disposing 728,000 games in 1983, the Associated Press reported.

Atari landfill

Production on the "E.T." game was rushed for Christmas 1983. The game was regarded as Atari's worst work.

So Atari filled up truckloads of the "E.T" game cartridges, and drove them from its El Paso, TX, offices to a landfill in New Mexico. The games were buried and covered in a layer of concrete to prevent people from digging them back up.

Lewandowski started managing the landfill shortly after the cartridges were dumped, and told the AP that the crew used old photographs and dug exploratory wells to find the site.

Officials say they have found hundreds of cartridges at the landfill, but the excavation is continuing. It is not yet clear if the games were also buried elsewhere.

The original Atari company closed up shop in 1984, and the name has been bought several times since then.


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