News Article

Weirdness: Someone Is Planning On Digging Up Atari's Buried E.T. Cartridges

Posted by Damien McFerran

Could this urban legend be true? We'll soon find out

Before Nintendo came along and revolutionised the video game industry with the NES, American company Atari was the undisputed king of the home gaming arena — right up to the point where low-quality software and catastrophic mismanagement resulted in a massive video game crash.

One of the most famous stories relating to this period is the burial of approximately 3.5 million copies of the Atari 2600 game E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. To illustrate just how badly Atari was conducting its business, around 5 million carts were manufactured — way more than could realistically be sold at the time, given the install base of the system.

1.5 million copies were purchased, and the rest were returned to Atari — which reportedly decided to dump the inventory in a big hole in the desert of New Mexico. Legend has it that the games were crushed and encased in cement, but many — including the game's developer, Howard Scott Warshaw — regard this famous tale as untrue. Whatever happened to the games, the commercial failure of E.T. sank Atari and almost destroyed video gaming as a viable entertainment medium in the west.

We won't have to wait much longer to discover if one of gaming's most enduring stories is true, because entertainment firm Fuel Industries has been granted a six month excavation period on the rumoured burial site, with plans to make a documentary of the event. Will they find anything? Post a comment to tell us what you think.


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User Comments (68)



Shiryu said:

Would be interesting to know if this popular urban myth turns out to be true.



bassoongoon said:

This seems pretty pointless. All for a game that was not even good in the first place....



Mickey said:

C'mon guys! This is a big part of gaming history! We shouldn't just leave important events undocumented (the US release date for Super Mario Bros.)



Pj1 said:

Yes I'd like to know if the rumors are true, the Angry Nerd should get involved too!



Nintenjoe64 said:

Maybe they never made the 5,000,000 cartridges at all and someone just put it down as an expense to cover the millions they were stealing from Atari!

I'd love it if they found all the RROD x-boxes in a hole instead.



Nintendude789 said:

I would go help that person, since I live in New Mexico. If the legend is true, I'll drive to Alamagordo, that's where the games were buried... Well if I have a car.

I would actually get the original ET games as a collection. Those are rare.



Kirk said:

Hey, I thought the Angry Video Game Nerd was already going to investigate that in his movie...



MJKOP said:

Lol cool this has to happen, although it might be disappointing to have a genuine urban legend finally put to rest...



ballistic90 said:

Ummmm...this wasn't an Urban Legend, its completely true that the games were buried in the desert. However, good luck digging them up, because they were smashed and run over with a steam roller, and concrete was poured overtop.



Geonjaha said:

Herp Derp AVGN comments.
A documentary about digging up copies of an old unpopular game? Yea, I'll surely pass.



SetupDisk said:

I've had the "honor" of playing this game on an old atari. If they find the pile it must be DESTROYED!



lividd3ad said:

I'm surprised nobody's thought of doing this sooner. I for one am really excited to see if the rumours are true.



TromaDogg said:

They need to clear space in the burial site so Microsoft will have somewhere to put all their Xbox Ones in a couple of years .....



Intrepid said:

Very interesting. I did not know about this, but I wish him the best of luck.




I don't get why in the world of gaming would anyone want to go and un-earth a heck of a lot of copies of E.T. from the ATARI 2600. IMO, it's better leaving a piece of gaming history like that buried.



Tasuki said:

I would laugh my butt off if it was the Angry Video Game Nerd behind it. After all I believe that what his movie is about.



Dr_42o said:

Conspiracy theory: There is a certain material that makes up part of those cartridges that could stop a cybernetic army from taking over the world and the government just wants you to think it's a history project! OMG Save us E.T.!



hYdeks said:

Ahh, the game that pushed the 1983 video game crash, it was bound to happen, but this game like made sure it happened. I played it once, I say do us all a favour and keep them buried



murphy77 said:

they digging that up to put all the unsold aliens colonial marine games there



Classclown said:

wasn't E.T. a big omen for Atari? that it causes the biggest crash for the video game industry. Just wondering



Tasuki said:

@ricklongo: Technically Cheetahman dont count since it wasn't an official game. Because of that ET and Superman 64 are regarded as the worst games ever.



ajcismo said:

This is not a fine wine or cheese, this game does NOT get better with age.



A1234 said:

I know Howard. if he says it is not true, it is not true.
"low-quality software" also sounds like Wii. glad there was no crash because of it.



Pichuka97 said:

I really want this game for my 2600. I know it was bad but it would still be a killer addition to my collection.



ogo79 said:

so whats avgn going to do now with the movie is the question...
btw-those games are not buried its all a rumor.



Ras said:

@Tasuki That has to be worst high-profile releases, because there are plenty of games that make even those look good. Big Rigs, for one. Kasumi Ninja.



Bender said:

@KnightRider666 I'm with you. It's one of gamings most interesting secrets. Were they buried? Or were they just lying? Honestly, I wouldn't doubt it if they were all in deep Atari storage, never to be spoken of again.



Bender said:

@SheldonRandoms Why on earth do you HAVE to put pictures with all your comments? It's as if the only reason you comment is to put up a picture hoping people find it funny... Anyway, I am really looking forward to his findings, and looking forward to his countless eBay postings of the copies of ET.



Mizzah_Tee said:

I have a feeling this will be a Geraldo and Al Capones safe situation. If you don't know what I mean look it up. Yeah, I'm old



Mayhem said:

There are ET cartridges buried there... there's also a lot of other stuff buried there as it was apparently a clear out of a manufacturing plant's inventory before switching over to more automated processes. So they'd probably find Pac-Man carts as well, maybe Combat, and other mass produced titles.



sinsalaca said:

If it's true that they were all crushed then I guess it is a good thing that my copy of the game is still safe and sound up in my attic along with my other atari games

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