'E.T.' Game Cartridges Buried in New Mexico 31 Years Ago Found in Excavation: Gaming Urban Legend Proven True

By Matthew Buzzi , Updated Apr 27, 2014 08:51 AM EDT

One of the oldest bits of gaming legend has been the story of video games buried in a landfill. Rumor had it that Atari put at least thousands of cartridges containing the disgraced game E.T. underground in a New Mexico landfill 31 years ago when the studio had no other solutions for its unsold supply.

Today, an excavation in the area that was supposed to contain the cartridges proved successful: a dig team found buried copies of E.T. in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The effort was a partnership between a documentary team hoping to film the discovery of the cartridges and Microsoft, who offered to sponsor the event.

The story always had said that Atari buried the catridges in 1983 after the game was universally panned by critics and players like (other rumors said Atari had also made more copies than there were consoles), but many never believed it to be true. Today has proven otherwise, vindicating one of gaming's most bizarre and long-running urban legends.

Atari had supposedly paid a small fortune to attain the video game rights to Spielberg's E.T. film, and was punished financially when the game was a commercial failure. The title was poor and, oddly, had very little to do with the franchise it had paid so much to use.

The Alamogordo government gave media company Fuel Entertainment the green light to dig up the landfill in search of the games, and the efforts have paid off today. We're seeing the first images from the dig appearing online now, a surreal bit of industry history coming back into reality three decades later.

Top dig site photo via Microsoft employee Major Nelson's Twitter account. Second image provided by Wired's Phil Kohler, who is on the scene at the dig.

TAG E.T., Atari
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