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Yes, There are Old Atari Game Cartridges Buried in the Desert

Historical artifacts from the video game crash of the early 1980s.


One of the most enduring and weirdest stories in video game industry history has been confirmed: Atari did indeed dump a bunch of game cartridges in the New Mexico desert.

If you care anything about the history of the sharp rise and fall of the companies behind the home video game craze of the early 1980s, then you’ve probably heard various versions of the story of the 1982 adventure game E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The game itself, developed for Atari’s 2600 console was so bad as to be unplayable. (I remember renting it once as a kid in 1983 only to find it baffling.)

This game was one of many high profile failures for Atari — others include a similarly baffling game based on Raiders of the Lost Ark and a bad adaptation of Pac Man — that led to a loss of about a half billion dollars for the company that year. The game is cited as a trigger of a financial crisis in the video game industry.

So the story goes that one day Atari packed up its unsold inventory of E.T. and other game cartridges from a factory in Texas, carted them off to Alamagordo, New Mexico, and dumped them into a landfill. Armchair game industry historians have been wondering if it’s apocryphal ever since.

It’s not. A dig in Almagordo heavily covered by gaming news site IGN has confirmed that there are indeed old video game cartridges buried in the desert. Here’s some video from the scene, and if that’s not enough for you, there’s said to be a documentary film in the works produced by Simon Chinn and and Jonathan Chinn of “Searching for Sugarman” fame.

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