E.T. Cartridges Found in New Mexico Landfill

After 30 long years, one of gaming’s biggest myths has finally been confirmed. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game, originally developed and published in 1982 for the Atari 2600, is widely considered to be the worst video game of all time. A combination of massive overproduction and the game itself being unspeakably abysmal led to it being one of the largest commercial failures in video game history, and many consider it to be a contributing factor to the video game crash of 1983.

As such, the myth surrounding this infamous title claimed that in order to cheaply dispose of the massive stock of cartridges, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was taken out into the desert and buried. As it turns out, this is precisely what happened. Writer and director Zak Penn decided to tackle this myth and is filming a documentary produced by Xbox Entertainment Studios to be released on the Xbox One and the Xbox 360. The documentary details the excavation of the landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. As a crowd surrounded the dig site Saturday, April 26th, Penn revealed the long lost E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial complete with box, manual and cartridge. James Heller, a manager at Atari in 1983, was tasked with the disposal of 728,000 cartridges which led to their resting place in Alamogordo, but after local kids got into trouble for scavenging the landfill, a layer of concrete was poured over the games to prevent further looting. Even with this knowledge, a large number of games are being recovered, although certainly not in the best of shape after 30 years in a landfill. The documentary filmmakers will get 250 of the cartridges while Mayor Susie Galea and the city of Alamogordo plan on selling the rest. 

Howard Scott Warshaw, the original designer of E.T. claims he does not mind people calling it a terrible game because, “It may be a horrible game, but 32 years after, you are here, talking to me about it.” Atari originally purchased the rights to E.T. for 20-25 million dollars, and it was heavily marketed with expectations of being a massive success. The biggest contribution dooming this much maligned game, aside from starting so far in the red, is the fact that Warshaw had been given a mere five weeks to design, write, and test E.T. in order to get it onto shelves by Christmas time. An article published in the New York Times on September 28, 1983, documented 14 truckloads of cartridges being dumped and addresses Atari’s financial woes which, in theory, should have proven the myth, but for most seems only to have been the genesis of this tale.

Regardless of the history, we, in the gaming culture, now have undeniable proof of one of the biggest legends in gaming history. Now if only we could figure out how to get Mew from that truck …

There are 3 comments.

  1. AverageJoe said on May 5, 2014 at 10:29 am

    They didn’t get MY copy!!! I got this as a Christmas present when it first came out, and it really is as awful as it’s reputation. I played it more than I wanted to out of pure guilt that my parents paid $36 (IN 1982!!! OUTRAGEOUS $$$!!!!) for this game.

  2. CallmeMerry said on May 7, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I just hope yours is in better condition than those sitting in a landfill for 30 years.

  3. AverageJoe said on May 9, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Hard to say what kind of condition it’s in. My Atari stuff has been sitting in various basements for the last 20 years, and I suspect the landfill may be cleaner than some of the places I’ve lived.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *