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Documentary film to exhume Atari graveyard

A documentary film crew has gotten permission to excavate the landfill that Atari reportedly dumped unsold merchandise into in the 1980s.


If you've been following video games for long enough, you've probably heard the tale of the Atari landfill. Following the video game crash of the early 1980s, a New Mexico newspaper and the New York Times reported that truckloads of Atari hardware were dumped in a landfill. That purportedly included a few million copies of the infamously bad "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial." Now thirty years later, a film crew plans to dig it all up.

New Mexico station KRQE (via Ars Technica) reports that a documentary crew will excavate the site sometime in the next six months. The crew is being funded by the Ottawa-based marketing firm Fuel Industries.

E.T. is said to be the bulk of the scrap, as Atari could not sell the game after it tanked. Other reports have claimed the landfill could house consoles, PCs, or rare Atari prototypes. We'll finally get an answer to these questions, and at the very least be left with more than three million unsold copies of a terrible licensed game.

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  • reply
    June 3, 2013 3:30 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Documentary film to exhume Atari graveyard.

    A documentary film crew has gotten permission to excavate the landfill that Atari reportedly dumped unsold merchandise into in the 1980s.

    • DM7 legacy 10 years
      June 3, 2013 4:03 PM

      Will they still be there after all this time?

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 4:07 PM

      Seems like a good use of money.

      "We've dug out all the compacted garbage. We're... breaking through the concrete barrier now*... we're almost to what will certainly be a trove of Atari memorabilia... and... yes... yes it appears to be 1,000's of unsold E.T. cartridges... can't... um... can't say this isn't what we expected..."

      * supposedly they poured concrete all over the discarded merch, but I assume that was just a rumor.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 4:21 PM

      Ottawa, not Ottowa.

      • reply
        June 3, 2013 4:27 PM

        I'm going to head over there tomorrow and start camping their HQ for a copy.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 4:43 PM

      I always thought that was an urban legend.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 4:57 PM

      The irony is that they will probably sell the recovered copies as video game memorabilia and it will be the second time one of the shitiest games ever made makes more money than it ever should.

      • reply
        June 3, 2013 5:11 PM

        The first time was?

        • reply
          June 3, 2013 6:24 PM

          They actually sold quite a few copies of the game when it came out because of the name before people knew how much it sucked. I guess "make" money wasn't the correct term. Just the fact that people paid money for it I guess.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 4:58 PM

      Saw this on /. this weekend:
      Someone reverse engineering ET to fix it's bugs:

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 5:05 PM

      I think this is the plot of the AVGN Movie.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 5:14 PM

      Looking at the numbers alone is crazy: estimated $125M in total development (in 1982; the inflation-adjusted equivalent in 2013 dollars would be $300M). Manufacturing run of 5 million cartridges, with only 1.5 million sold. And that was among all the other factors that led to the 1983 crash.

      • reply
        June 3, 2013 9:44 PM

        Most of the $125 was just the licensing though.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 5:39 PM

      Has any Shacker actually beat this game?

      I was able to finish it, but it made no sense. Fall into random holes hoping you find the telephone pieces while dodging the guy in the suit trying to kidnap you.

      Then you have to go to the forest at the right time and use the phone to call your ship if you did it at the right time (Noon I believe) your ship would come down and take you away and you win.

      • reply
        June 3, 2013 5:54 PM

        As I recall, I beat it as a kid. Such a shit game.

      • reply
        June 4, 2013 9:19 AM

        I beat this too back in the day. Was frustrating as hell, but most atari games were...

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 5:52 PM

      Apparently while it is true that Atari did dump a bunch of stuff into the landfill, What is not true, however, is that the stuff they dumped was exclusively made up of ET games. Apparently they cleared out a factory and that is what they put into the dump.

      This comment explains it: I haven't gotten around to reading the book the comment mentions yet so I don't know how well they documented it though.

    • reply
      June 3, 2013 6:17 PM

      After this, do you think the Atari brand is REALLY dead this time? The current owner, formerly Infogrames, is going to be in bankruptcy court on Thursday:,_Getty_and_Atari/

      Thursday, June 6, 10 a.m. - Video game maker Atari Inc will ask Judge James Peck to extend its exclusivity period to file a Chapter 11 plan by 90 days to Aug 19. ... U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York. For Atari: Ira Dizengoff of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

      May 2003 was when Infogrames rebranded itself as Atari

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