Atari was on top of the world in the early 80’s. After an acquisition by Warner and income hitting billions a year, they accounted for 80% of the home console market. After cutting their teeth porting arcade classics, they struck a deal with parent company Warner Bros and Steven Spielberg to create a video game version of E.T, an original title based on the movie. It was unheard of at the time, the rule was you did arcade or worked on an existing franchise; to top it off, the deal for the licensing rights was in excess of $20 Million, making it a HUGE gamble for Atari.
Atari made 5 million cartridges and kicked their advertising machine into gear, hoping the gamble would pay off. Unfortunately, the game was critically panned and is now considered the worst video game of all time. In September 1983, the Alamogordo Daily News of Alamogordo, New Mexico reported in a series of articles, that between 10 & 20 truckloads of Atari boxes, cartridges, and systems from an Atari storehouse in El Paso, Texas had been seen arriving to be crushed and buried at the landfill within the city. Rumour had it the location was chosen because no scavenging was allowed and the garbage was crushed and buried nightly. Atari’s stated reason for the burial was that it was changing from Atari 2600 to Atari 5200 games, but this was later contradicted by a worker who claimed that this was not the case. Atari official Bruce Enten stated that Atari was mostly sending broken and returned material to the Alamogordo dump and that it was “by-and-large inoperable stuff.”
But journalist’s and gamers were certain it was to get rid of the old E.T unsold carts and bury a dark time in their history, one that would lead to their downfall and sale from Warner. Details were sketchy, conflicting reports swirled around and the urban legend of the ‘E.T Dump’ were told for years to come.
On May 28, 2013, the Alamogordo City Commission granted Fuel Industries & XBOX Entertainment, six months of access to the landfill to film a documentary about the burial and to excavate the dump site. Excavation finally started yesterday (April 26, 2014) as an open event to the public.
Remnants of E.T. and other Atari games were discovered in the early hours of the excavation, as reported by Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb on Twitter. It turns out the Rumours are true! Various photos have been arriving on social media from people that are there. So far, they’ve found various controllers, multiple E.T cartridges as well as other games such as Centipede, all in their original shrink wrap.
Check out some of the images below.