Atari 'ET' Game: Thousands of Copies Found Buried in New Mexico Desert

Monday, 28 Apr 2014 02:54 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Documentary producers on Saturday unearthed thousands of game cartridges of Atari's infamous "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" video game that were buried some 30 years ago in a New Mexico desert landfill and covered with concrete.

For decades, the "Atari grave" was a highly debated tale among gaming enthusiasts and other self-described geeks until now.

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The video game, which some gaming enthusiasts say is the worst game ever made, contributed to the demise of Atari in the 1980s, according to The Associated Press. Atari was the country's largest video game maker at the time.

Documentary filmmaker Zak Penn, who is working on a film about Atari, discovered the trove with search crews.

James Heller, a former Atari manager, said that burying the cartridges in the New Mexico desert in Alamogordo was a cheap way to get rid of 728,000 copies of the game that were gathering dust in an El Paso, Texas, warehouse.

He said he decided to top off the burial with concrete after reporters started calling him and scavengers started digging for them.

"I never heard about it again it until June 2013, when I read an article about E.T. being excavated," Heller told The Associated Press.

Microsoft's Xbox Entertainment Studio is developing the documentary on Atari, and it is slated for release later this year, according to Reuters. The first copies of the buried video games were found about three hours into the excavation on Saturday, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Some 200 people gathered early Saturday to watch the excavation.

"I feel pretty relieved and psyched that they actually got to see something," Penn told The Associated Press, adding that members of the production team sifted through the mounds of trash, pulling out boxes, games, and other Atari products.

The video game's release coincided with the success of the movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" in 1982.

Tina Amini, deputy editor at gaming website Kotaku, told the AP that the game tanked because "it was practically broken," with E.T. falling into traps that were almost impossible to escape from.

The reason for the game's poor execution was tied to the fact that Atari took too long to secure the rights for the game. With pressing Christmas production schedules, designer Howard Scott Warshaw was left with just five weeks to design, write, and test "the worst game ever."

"It may be a horrible game, but 32 years after, you are here, talking to me about it," Warshaw told the AP. "It's a tremendous honor."

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