Microsoft unearths mass grave of Atari ‘ET’ game cartridges, buried in 1983

Photo via Microsoft

Photo via Microsoft

Turns out Atari did, indeed, bury a giant cache of unsold “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” video-game cartridges in a New Mexico landfill more than three decades ago.

Yes, the game was that bad.

Atari Dig_Evidence

Photo via Microsoft.

Excavators discovered copies of the 1982 game during a dig today in Alamogordo, N.M., in addition to joysticks, instruction manuals and other classic Atari games like Centipede, Space Invaders, and Asteroids.

It was rumored that millions of unsold units of the failed E.T. game were dumped in the landfill back in 1983. The story had been considered by some to be an urban legend, but filmmakers working with Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios on a documentary about the burial said today that they “can safely report that those long-buried cartridges are actually, 100 percent there.”

And that’s not all they found. Here’s how Microsoft’s Xbox Wire tells the story.

“The findings started out very promising, with an old, dusty Atari 2600 joystick buried in the landfill. Then an “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” cartridge. A box. An instruction manual. And the confirmation of “a lot more down there.” How many more, we don’t know just yet — but at this point, we can safely report that those long-buried cartridges are actually, 100 percent there. Crazy, isn’t it!? And it sounds like some other games are down there, too: Centipede, Space Invaders, Asteroids, and possibly more. “Lots of boxes” is what we’re hearing.”

The resulting film will be the first in a documentary series produced by Xbox in collaboration with Lightbox, a media company led by two-time Academy Award-winning producer producer Simon Chinn (known for films including Searching for Sugar Man and Man on Wire) and Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (FX’s 30 Days and PBS’s American High).

It’s part of a broader effort by Xbox to expand into original content, following in the footsteps of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

For more pictures from the excavation, check out this ReadWrite post from Taylor Hatmaker.

  • Kevin Mansel

    So crazy to read about this in Alamogordo. I lived here for a few years as a kid courtesy of the air force/white sands missile range. Much happier in Seattle…to say the least.

    • Jeff Felker

      Ha! Same here but Army/El Paso with many trips to NM. Also much happier in Seattle. Odd that I work at Microsoft Xbox Entertainment Studios and know nothing about this documentary :(.

    • Ben

      I left Seatte for Chicago. Much happier in Chicago!

      • missdk

        Why’s that? Genuinely curious.

  • JM

    So are you guys trying to compete with The Onion or did this article come out 25 days late?

    • nonscpo

      The story of the Atari burial has been brought up in different news outlets since they announced they were going there last year. The story of the digs findings started yesterday, hope that helps.

    • Kary

      Huh? I’ve seen a lot of sites reporting this “news” the last day or so. So many it’s become rather annoying, since this is seemingly just a bizarre publicity stunt.

  • Mike

    I’m totally at a loss as to why this involves Microsoft at all. I remember a friend having that cartridge for their 2600. I had a 5200 so I didn’t ever play it. They can probably search some landfills in Eastern WA and Oregon or the ocean and find more if they go looking.

    • blooky

      Did you read the article or just comment on the title? MS is producing a documentary on the subject (as well as others) for original Xbox programming.

  • http://fadi.el-eter.com Fadi El-Eter

    I remember reading the exact same story a couple of years ago. I didn’t know back then it was an urban legend.

    In any case, I guess those who found this trash didn’t waste much time. They’re now selling it on ebay: http://www.ebay.ca/sch/i.html?_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR5.TRC1.A0.H0.Xatari+et&_nkw=atari+et&_sacat=0&_from=R40