Proving that there is usually a true story behind every urban legend, construction crews recently uncovered an enormous cache of intact, unsold Atari video games and software that have been buried in a landfill located in the desert near the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico, for over three decades.
Among them were the notoriously awful E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial tie-in game that Atari spent millions of dollars to license and create and went on to become a major money loser for the company. Though it initially sold 1.5 million copies upon its release in December 1982, over three million copies were left to collect dust on retailer shelves across the country. Reviews were scathing and within months the game was being discounted for a fraction of its original price. When the hype dissipated, Atari was left $75 million in the red, a staggering loss that nearly destroyed the once-powerful company and left it highly vulnerable to an endless influx of competitors on the growing video game market.
The excavation in New Mexico was made possible thanks to a new documentary series about how evolving technologies have changed the world, which is being produced by Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn for Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios. The first installment will focus on the infamous Atari/E.T. video game fiasco.
Xbox Live’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb was on hand to witness the dig and posted updates and photos to his Twitter feed (including the one I used as the header for this article – thanks Major!):
The still-untitled Microsoft documentary series will debut next year exclusively on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Below you can check out some video footage from the excavation, courtesy of Wired’s YouTube channel.