Documentary Approved to Excavate “Atari Landfill”

It’s one of gaming’s greatest legends: The Atari Landfill. Chances are you’re familiar with this old wives tale, but for those in the dark, let’s take a trip back in time. The year is 1982 and the video game industry exploded. Home consoles were nudging their way into living rooms and “game fever” was spreading faster than the plague. Everybody wanted to get in on the action and milk the cash cow of kids itching to cure their addiction of blinking dots. And what better a way to become noticed than by taking the popularity of a summer blockbuster and pushing it through the video game medium. 

Atari decided the lovable, little guy from Spielberg’s E.T. would make the prime candidate for his own Atari 2600 adventure. But with only a few months of development and a strict deadline of shipping the game in time for Christmas madness, the game hit store shelves long before it was ready. The resulting E.T for the Atari 2600 laid a hot, steaming turd in the living room of anyone who made the mistake of purchasing it with what was an awful, just truly terrible game. It is commonly referenced as one of the worst video games of all time and birthed the negativity surrounding movie-game tie-ins. 

The game-changing gameplay of E.T.

The game-changing gameplay of E.T.

Atari was left with mountains of unsold cartridges and needed a way to dispose of them. Legend has it that the following year Atari actually had the games dumped in a New Mexico landfill, sealing the tomb with concrete, never to be discussed again. It is believed that over 3 million copies were dumped, along side a number of other failed Atari products.

Thanks to pursuits of a Canadian multimedia firm, it looks like E.T. may finally come home. The Alamogordo city council, of the New Mexican city where the copies are believed to be buried, approved Fuel Industries on their request to unearth the site for an upcoming documentary.

Though widely held as truth, there is always the possibility the legend is a hoax, which would make for a pretty lackluster documentary. Multiple sources, including a garbage disposal company that claimed to have fulfilled the request, have added validity to the myth while others still remain skeptical. 

Regardless, it will be satisfying to finally have closure on the matter, whether fact or fiction.