Apparently digging up these copies of the much-maligned game was much easier than trying to get out of the pits in the ACTUAL E.T. game on the Atari 2600. Those things were practically impossible to get out of!
Anyway, that landfill was the spot in which Atari dumped truckloads of merchandise around midnight in 1983 after Atari’s game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial tanked in a tough market, contributing to the Video Game Crash of 1983. Since that midnight disposal, there was much speculation and rumors regarding both the location of the landfill chockfull of Atari paraphernalia and whether or not the landfill even existed. After Microsoft paid to dig up the location for a documentary on the history of video gaming, the dig occurred and the 800+ games (along with Atari catalogs and promotional materials) were found! Now, they’re up for auction.
The Alamogordo city council voted 7-0 in favor of auctioning off the game cartridges on eBay and on the city council’s own website (after cutting a deal with Microsoft regarding the distribution of the games). The first few auctions are taking place about now and will continue until Christmas. All the sold cartridges will come with certificates of authenticity. Reportedly, the disposed cartridges included not just the almost universally despised E.T. game, but also other games like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pele’s Soccer, Yar’s Revenge, Baseball, Centipede, and Warlords. There are plans for the other 500 cartridges found will be kept by the city as mementos (now under the custodianship of the Tularosa Basin Historical Society and stored at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo) or donated to various museums — possibly including the video game wing of the Smithsonian — as well as state and local museums.
Joe Lewandowski, a local garbage contractor who saw the cartridges buried in 1983 and helped the excavators find the right spot to dig 30 years later, told Reuters the decision to put the game cartridges up for sale was like a “phoenix rising from the desert.”