Buried E.T. Cartridges Discovered by Archeologists

By taylorhatmaker - Atari E.T. Dig: Alamogordo, New Mexico, CC BY 2.0April 26, 2014

As part of the filming of the documentary, Atari: Game Over, a team of archaeologists at a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico uncover the site of an estimated 700,000 Atari 2600 cartridges buried in 1983, including copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, one of the most famous commercial failures in video game history. Since 1983 when it was first reported that Atari had dumped excess copies of unsold cartridges, the event had become a type of urban legend, with the details of the games, other equipment, and quantities dumped varying according to who was telling the story. It also became a symbolic event of the video game crash of 1983, where home video game revenues fell by nearly 97% over two years. It was commonly believed that millions of copies of E.T. were buried, although it was claimed by a former Atari official during the excavation that the number was only 728,000 cartridges of various games.

It was reported that only about 1100 cartridges were uncovered as the majority were buried deeper than expected. Games found in the recovery included Yars’ Revenge, Star Raiders, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Defender, Warlords, Centipede, and yes E.T.

As an 8 or 9 year old kid, I actually really liked the E.T. game! I remember the agony of not being able to win and having E.T. die or be captured, and the thrill of completing the game and sending E.T. home. In fact, I still have my original cartridge as well as my original Atari 2600.