In the early 1980s, Atari made what seemed like a slam-dunk bet: a game based on E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the most beloved (and highest-grossing) films of all time. The company was so sure it had a hit in the making, in fact, that it manufactured millions of E.T. game cartridges, which flooded store shelves just in time for holiday shopping in December 1982.
The game sold well at the outset, but it didn’t sell well enough: By early 1983, Atari still had 3.5 million unsold cartridges on its hands. Embarrassed by the failure, Atari dumped those cartridges into a city landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Over the next three decades, stories of the “Atari video game burial” would assume legendary status among techies and gaming aficionados.
In 2003, Canadian entertainment company Fuel Industries received permission from Alamogordo’s town counsel to excavate the landfill for the long-lost cartridges. With a documentary crew filming away, workers began to dig, uncovering a number of E.T. cartridges, along with a handful of other games from the era such as Missile Command.
Now some of those cartridges have surfaced on eBay, selling for $50 and up; if you ever wanted to own a little slice of video-game history, now’s your chance. (Hat tip to VentureBeat for the eBay link.)
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