April 28, 2014
Excavation Locates Unsold Atari 2600 Video Games In New Mexico Desert
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Longtime video game enthusiasts who believed in tales that thousands or even millions of unsold Atari 2600 cartridges were buried in a New Mexico desert some 30 years ago have been vindicated, as an excavation crew has discovered the first evidence that the urban legend is true during a Saturday morning dig.
According to CNET’s Daniel Terdiman, crews working at an old landfill at the city of Alamogordo in the south-central part of the state announced that they had located the first of the old game cartridges shortly before 1pm local time. The first cartridge to be unearthed was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – which should be no surprise to anyone who has ever heard the story.
For those unfamiliar with the tale, a brief recap: in 1983, various media outlets reported that 14 trucks worth of unsold Atari products were transported to the landfill from a factory in El Paso, Texas. Thanks in part to E.T. and a lousy Atari 2600 version of the arcade hit Pac-Man, Atari found itself in trouble, explained Samuel Claiborn of IGN.com.
Claiborn called it “the end of an era.” With poor software flooding the market and the general public losing interest in video games as a whole, 1983 turned out to be “a bleak year for the industry,” resulting in what had since become known as the “video game crash.” E.T. – which had to be completed in a quarter of the time most video games of the era were given – was “Atari's final, and costliest, blunder of that era,” he added.
Three decades and lots of speculation later, a documentary film crew set out to find out whether or not video gaming’s answer to Bigfoot, UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster could be verified. Lightbox and Fuel Entertainment, with financial assistance from Microsoft’s Xbox division, found the location where the games had allegedly been buried and set out to find them, said Terdiman. On Saturday, after months of preparation, they were successful.
“The YouTube video of the excavation effort shows a man in a hard hat from the team announcing, ‘We found something,’ to a few scattered ‘whoos!’” said Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Padilla. “He let the drama unfold and then added, ‘We found an intact 'E.T.,'’the video game.’ The crowd erupted in hoots, cheers and screams.”
As for the game itself, Padilla said that E.T. sold 1.5 million copies but was still considered to be a disappointment (likely due to the popularity of the movie). It certainly didn’t help that the quality was dubious at best. In the words of Re/Code’s Arik Hesseldahl, the game was “so bad as to be unplayable,” and the L.A. Times quotes Hero Complex as calling it “one of the most notorious games in 2600 history… [it’s] failure was the beginning of a long decline in Atari’s fortunes.”
The documentary is being directed by Avengers, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand writer Zak Penn and will be released exclusively on Xbox One by the newly formed Xbox Entertainment Studios, according to IGN’s Chris Pereira. It is expected to be released before the end of the year and, in addition to the excavation, it will discuss Atari’s rise and fall during the 1980s.