By Rob Thubron
The Alamogordo News has reported that 881 of the early-eighties Atari video game cartridges that were dug up last year by a team of diggers and filmmakers have sold for a grand total of $107,930 on eBay.
In April last year, a film and dig crew set out to discover if the story of Atari burying almost one million unsold video cartridges into a New Mexico landfill was nothing more than a rumor. Led by archaeologist Andrew Reinhard, the teams unearthed hundreds of copies of E.T., consider by many to be the worst game ever made, alongside Missile Command, Defender, Swordquest, Pac-Man and many other titles.
The E.T. video game for the Atari 2600 was released in 1982. It had been developed in a rush so as to get the game in stores for the Christmas shopping season; part of the reason it became a commercial and critical disaster. The game was far too punishing and confusing for gamers, and became a major contributing factor to the North American video game crash of 1983. This led to Atari shutting down its El Paso, Texas, factory and having to get rid of roughly 700,000 unsold copies of games – and not just E.T. The cartridges were quietly disposed of in the Alamogordo dump, although Atari never confirmed or denied this, leading to the story becoming an urban legend up until last year.
Joe Lewandowski, an operational consultant who helped locate the cache, appeared at a city commission meeting in Alamogordo last week and said the sales of the cartridges had made $107,930. He added that $65,037.78 will go to the city of Alamogordo and $16,259.44 to the Tularosa Basin Historical Society. The rest of the money, just under $27,000, was used for expenses.
Lewandowski said he is holding on to 297 of the cartridges, telling the Alamogordo News: “I might sell those if a second movie comes out, but for now we’re just holding them,” adding that a reboot of E.T. the movie could increase the value of the games for the city.
The search for the games was the basis of the documentary ‘Atari: Game Over,’ that was released in November 2014. It was also the central theme in the movie version of the popular web series ‘Angry Video Game Nerd.’