Hunt for buried Atari E.T cartridges pays off: Hundreds of cartridges found in landfill. Intact

Excavators hold up E.T. for the Atari 2600

In 1983, Atari had buried millions of cartridges of the game E.T along with other stuff the Alamogordo desert landfill. E.T has been regarded as the worst video game of all time and it deserved it: It had been hastily put together in 5 weeks.  It should have got five months.

Atari’s E.T’s failure was one of the biggest factors contributing to the great Video Game Crash of ’83.

While E.T had initially sold over a million copies due to its movie heritage, customers started returning E.T games just as quickly when everyone came to know of the sheer terribleness, the sheer lack of depth that affected the game. The lack of attention while making the game showed in its gameplay, which frankly, was boring, stupid, broken and really, really not worth playing.

If you had played E.T once, the trauma of playing it would be imprinted upon you for the rest of your life. Seriously, it was THAT bad.

Atari finally had buried E.T to put behind this massive failure, a failure that had literally wiped the video-game industry off it’s feet, a failure that had almost killed off the Video Game industry.

Over the decades that many theories have been spun by people about the reason of burying millions of E.T cartridges. Since not much is known about the burial (Except for this NY Times article from 1983), many naysayers and many doubts have risen about the burial. Did Atari really do it? That was the question floating around in everyone’s minds.

That was, until Fuel Entertainment and Lightbox collaborated with Microsoft to dig up and stir the unknown, while making a film of it all, as a souvenir, to be able to relive the moment of uncovering Atari’s mystery, again and again.




A huge crowd had gathered before the digging. The crowd included along them regular curious people, children and finally gamers who had flown in from around the world to be present when  Atari’s big mystery is finally unfolded.

Due to excessive amounts of dust and winds, many people left before the E.T cartridges were uncovered. But a few determined people still stood there, braving dust in their face and high-speed winds.

Then, it happened. After some digging, some waste material, lots of concrete, garbage, more garbage and dust, cartridges were found. Hundreds of them.  And that’s not even all of it, the excavation crews claim that there’s much more there. Most of them were E.T cartridges, as expected, but some of them were also cartridges of other games along with other Atari memorabilia (Such as an Atari 2600 joystick).

E.T. Found In New Mexico Landfill

The games were in surprisingly good condition, considering their age and how they were kept at the bottom of a landfill for over 30 years. The packaging, understandably was torn, but most of the cartridges were in good, probably playable condition.

Three men at the scene, tell every one of their charming story, about how they had broken into the very same landfill on the day the games were dumped when they were kids and how they had nicked away some of the games there, such as Pac-Man to take home and play on their consoles.

“It was pitch dark here that night, but we came with our flashlights and found dozens of games,” Armando Ortega, one of the three men, said.


The icing on the cake?  During the hunt for the lost E.T cartridges, people were taking turns playing the very same E.T game on old Atari-2600 consoles. Playing a game while digging for the very same game, great, isn’t it?

The CIty of Alamogordo has agreed to give “250 cartridges or 10 percent of the cartridges found, whichever is greater,” to the documentary crew.

Finally, a huge mystery has been resolved and it feels really exciting, doesn’t it?


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