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One of the biggest urban legends in video game history has finally been confirmed, and E.T. has come home.
For decades now an urban legend has circulated in video game circles in relation to the fate of up to 1 million unsold E.T. game cartridges for the Atari 2600. As the story goes, the game was so bad that multiple truckloads were dumped in a Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill and then covered over in cement, sealing them away from ever harming the world again.
You see, Atari took too long to get the license for the game, and by the time they did, the team working on it had only five weeks to build it, test it and ship it to meet the Christmas shopping season. This resulted in E.T. being possibly one of the most “broken” games to ever hit the market. It was essentially unplayable and the backlash on Atari was so severe that many consider it to be the lynchpin on what caused the company to go under.
Currently a documentary about the fall of Atari is being made, and amongst the tales to be told in the film will be if the urban legend of the truckloads of E.T. cartridges were true. After weeks of negotiating with the city, the film crew secured the rights to dig up the spot where it was believed the games were. Could we finally put this urban legend to rest?
April 26 was dig day, and… they found them. The urban legend is no more and the fate of the E.T. cartridges is now fact.
As it turns out, we could have had this dispelled years ago if anyone has asked former Atari manager James Heller about it. Heller was on site for the dig yesterday and told the Associated Press that he was put in charge of disposing of 728,000 cartridges of various games in 1983 as it no longer wanted to pay for the warehouse they were stored in. He had them moved to Alamogordo, and then later added the cement cap due to local kids learning of the massive pile and breaking into the landfill to take them.
Under the deal struck with the city, the producers of the documentary will be allowed to keep 250 of the cartridges and the rest will go to the city who plans to sell them at a later date as historical oddities.