It was announced this week that Alamogordo, New Mexico has given the go-ahead for a private company to excavate a local landfill that has been at the center of one of video gaming’s longest-lived urban legends: that at the rapid down-turn of the first videogame boom in the early 1980’s, when Atari closed its Texas manufacturing plant, among the truckloads and truckloads of stuff from that factory that were delivered to the landfill, were thousands of unsold (and unsellable) E.T. cartridges.
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is perhaps the game that set a rule for the next two (or even three decades) that all videogames that are tied-in to a movie are going to suck. E.T. is legendary for how bad a game it was perceived to be. So, the legend was that not only were people losing interest in video games in general, but among things people didn’t want, people super-duper did not want E.T. which logically would have left Atari with an unknown quantity of the cartridges that they must have manufactured and then could not sell.
So, into the landfill they went.. or so the legend goes. A New York Times article from the period makes no mention of E.T.
The town of Alamogordo has agreed to allow the excavation of the landfill by Fuel Industries, who are making a documentary about the dig in the “Atari Graveyard”. It has not been announced when digging will commence, though the permission to dig is for a six month period. While it’s entirely unknown what will be found, it sounds like Fuel is making the smarter move by choosing to make a documentary about it rather than, say, a live broadcast.