Microsoft proves Atari dumped E.T.

A legend that Atari dumped excess copies of E.T. for the Atari 2600 at the height of its troubles has finally been proven true.

According to Bit-Tech  an excavation of a New Mexico rubbish dump has finally put the urban legends surrounding the 80s video game crash and Atari’s part in it to rest,.

The Atari 2600 game E.T. is infamous. It was part of a multi-million dollar licensing agreement with filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the game was authorised in late July to be ready for a Christmas launch.

Howard Scott Warshaw, completed the game in just five and a half weeks – compared to the nine months that Raiders of the Lost Ark had taken and it should have been great.

But Atari was already struggling and the game cost it $21 million. It also decided to mass-produce the E.T. cartridges in volumes that exceeded the number of Atari 2600 consoles in the market.

It hoped that the game would sell hardware, but it did not. Atari shut its factories and apparently, the existing unsold stock was sent to a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The dumping was seen as a sign that the industry was buggered.

But the thing was Atari denied all this. They claimed that the material was merely faulty hardware from the plant’s repair work, dumped at a fee of between $300 and $500 per truckload.

However, the story of thousands of cartridges representing a range of titles became 3.5 million cartridges of E.T. alone.

Microsoft teamed up with film company Fuel to excavate the Alamogordo landfill in an attempt to prove or disprove the myth. The dig took place this weekend, with the public invited. Apparently, after 30-years, despite claims to the contrary by historians, it would appear that the rumours surrounding the Alamogordo tip were indeed mostly true.