Grave of Unsold Atari Games Successfully Excavated

A frankly outrageous, and decades-old pop culture urban myth has turned out to be entirely true. Atari really did try to bury their toys in the sand.

Spoken of in schoolyards, and eventually on barstools, for years was a fabled “Atari Landfill,” in the deserts of New Mexico; said to be the subterranean resting place of millions of copies of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the one-time home-gaming king’s hastily developed adaptation of Stephen Spielberg’s mega-hit film.

Video game lore has long said that the title’s failure was a severe kneecapping to not only the company, but the entire industry; already hobbled by a similarly rushed and poorly received home console adaptation of the arcade sensation, Pac-Man, that Atari had released earlier in the year. Wikipedia has a fairly thorough recounting of the events leading up to, and following, the so-called “Video game crash of 1983” here.

The video game burial ground of legend — located in Alamogordo, N.M — was exhumed by a crew led by filmmaker, Zak Penn (PeekYou profile here), for a documentary. To their surprise and relief, they uncovered a cache of games that included not only fully intact cartridges for E.T., but other Atari titles, such as Centipede and Asteroids, as well.

After years of scuttlebutt and speculation, this is a legitimately amusing end to this strange tale. Here, below, is Wired‘s reporting on this extremely important archeological discovery.