Atari Cartridges Recovered in New Mexico Desert


Unsuccessful as it was, a multitude of Atari’s E.T. the Extra Terrestrial game cartridges were recovered approximately 200 miles southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday. Many people gathered to watch excavators and other heavy machinery move layers of garbage and trash while they dug for the buried treasure. Armando Ortega, an Alamogordos official who, over 30 years ago received an anonymous heads up about the games location, was onsite to witness the truth of the clue. Yet due to weather, only a handful of seekers remained to see the legends unearthed. Why, by who or how the E.T cartridges came to rest in New Mexico is anyone’s guess. There are some who theorize they were buried there by Atari, who is said to have wound up with over half of the five million copies of the game that were made. The first group of games were discovered under mounds of debris after three hours of excavating, leading some to wonder exactly how many of the decades old game were under the ground.

Although the movie itself was a huge hit, the game, marketed on the Atari 2600 console, was not so lucky; even though it sold more than 30 million gaming systems. In spite of millions of copies of the game that were made, only 1.5 million were sold; a disappointing number in regards to the high expectations that were held after it was expedited into production after the movies release. The recovered Atari cartridges puts to rest the gamers urban legend that the games were buried in the New Mexico desert when it failed to bring in the profits. The whole ordeal was captured in video by film documentarians for Microsoft Corporations Xbox Entertainment Studios, laying to rest the myth.

It has been suggested that Atari buried them in the barrens in the quiet of the night. It is a known factor that there was a decline of the company as a leading competitor in the gaming business; it is also thought to have supplied to the decline of the gaming market in the early years of its existence. In its heyday, Atari made up 80 percent of the international video gaming world after making popular arcade games available on its games systems. A story in The New York Times from September 28, 1983, read 14 truckloads of rejected E.T. the Extra Terrestrial games and computer material were left at the location. An Atari spokesperson said that the cartridges came from a factory 80 miles south of Alamogordos in El Paso, Texas.

Joe Lewandowski, the director of the transfer station where the E.T. games were thought to be, acted as an authority for the filmmakers. He stated they had used long ago photos and dug test wells to find where the Atari cartridges in New Mexico could be recovered. The mayor of Alamogordos hopes that this discovery will promote tourism to the town, which is also home to White Sands National Monument and an air force base. In that regard, Alamogordo is giving the creators of the documentary 250 games or 10 percent of the total they find.

By Korrey Laderoute

Los Angeles Times
ABC News