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Documentary filmmakers to excavate infamous Atari E.T. landfill


A planned excavation will soon give closure to a long-standing video game urban legend, and may provide new insight into the industry's crash in 1983.

Canada-based film production company Fuel Industries has obtained permission from the City Commission of Alamogordo, New Mexico to excavate a landfill containing a large quantity of unsold Atari 2600 games, for the purpose of filming a documentary. Local news outlet KRQE reports that Fuel Industries will have access to the site over the next six months.

According to reports in 1983, between 10 and 20 semi-trailer trucks filled with unsold, inoperable, and prototype Atari hardware and software were dispatched from an El Paso, Texas storehouse to a landfill in Alamogordo. The cargo was reportedly dumped, crushed, and encased in concrete.

Urban legends state that the film-licensed game E.T. comprised a significant chunk of the dumped material. While E.T.'s gameplay quality is up for debate (some say it's one of the worst games of all time; others claim that it's a misunderstood mediocrity), it was a notoriously poor seller, and played a role in Atari, Inc.'s decision to close and split its assets in 1984.

Given the layers of concrete involved, the excavators have a lot of work ahead of them. Recovering these cartridges – or anything recognizable, really – is going to require a lot more than a roadtrip and some shovels.

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