The fabled story appears to be true -- millions of unsold "E.T." cartridges for the Atari 2600 are about to be unearthed from a landmine in New Mexico for the first time.
The year was 1983. Atari was king. It could do no wrong. Every game it released had a chance to earn millions of dollars. That mindset quickly came tumbling down, though, when the official video game version of the movie E.T. was released.
The infamous game, which was rushed through development and production in order to meet an extremely tight holiday release date, is often used as the poster child for the collapse of the video game industry in the early 1980s.
It is considered by many to be completely unplayable. It is often heralded as the worst video game of all time. But unlike most bad video games, this one was expected to sell through the roof. Atari ordered millions and millions of copies of the game to be produced.
And it did sell millions of those copies. Unfortunately, millions of them were returned. And word got out about how terrible the game was, making it virtually impossible for Atari to get rid of their excess supply of cartridges. So, it decided it had no other option than to bury the millions of useless copies of the game.
The story goes that an entire fleet of trucks -- packed to the gills with E.T. cartridges -- went to a landfill in New Mexico in an attempt to literally bury one of the most embarrassing debacles in video game history.
In the years since, this story has become an urban legend, with a growing skepticism about whether or not it's real. That is, until Microsoft's Xbox Entertainment Studios decided to include it in an upcoming documentary that will be released on Xbox Live. The company has just been given the official go-ahead from local officials to dig up the excavation site where the infamous cartridges are believed to be buried.
So, if you happen to be in the New Mexico area on April 26, you can be witness to a new chapter in one of the most fabled stories in video game history. The excavation will take place at the Alamogordo Landfill. The man who created the game, Howard Scott Warshaw, will be on hand to see what his months of work in 1983 looks like today.
The Xbox Entertainment Studios documentary does not yet have an estimated release date.
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