Buried E.T. cartridges to be excavated

Written by David Hing

June 3, 2013 // 9:46 a.m.

Tags: #atari #documentary #et #new-mexico #video-game-crash

Millions of copies of the Atari 2600 game E.T. are to be dug up from their landfill resting place in New Mexico.

According to KRQE, a news station in New Mexico, the landfill site that the cartridges are allegedly buried on is to be excavated by film production company Fuel Industries. The company has been granted access to the site for six months by the Alamogordo city commission and intends to make a documentary about the dig.

The infamously terrible E.T. game along with the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man were apparently buried in the desert in 1983. E.T. has been if not widely blamed for the North American video game crash then at least recognised as its major landmark.

However, some consider the cartridge burial to be an urban legend with reports at the time being unclear as to what exactly Atari was burying. An official statement claimed that the burial only concerned broken and returned materials.

Speculation by the press suggested that most of the 3.5 million unsold copies of E.T were crushed, encased in concrete and consigned to the landfill site. Other reports also suggest that prototypes for the Atari Mindlink controller also found their way to the site.

The game of E.T. involved making E.T. find three pieces of a telephone by climbing into pits and levitating back out again without being caught by FBI. Before its release, investors considered the licensing deal that Atari had procured with the E.T. intellectual property to be incredibly positive and several sources expected this to be the first of several successful video games based on films.

Despite the 3.5 million unsold copies of E.T., the game is still estimated to have sold 1.5 million units, however this still lead to a loss of $100m thanks to the expense of the license agreement and the cost of producing the millions of unsold cartridges.

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