atari eT

Just because the E.T. video game was a total flop, doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve to be treated like a lady.

If you thought you had a past to be ashamed of, game maker Atari totally one-upped you by loading up a bunch of trucks with copies of the game and burying them in a landfill. Video game historians went apeshit this week when more than 750,000 Atari game cartridges were discovered in a landfill in New Mexico. The E.T. game was one of the twenty or so estimated titles found. But how did they get there in the first place?

1982 was a rough year for game maker Atari. It suffered more than $500 million in losses, laid off thousands of employees, and took a gamble that didn’t pay off. In hopes of capitalizing on the success of Spielberg’s film, Atari got to work on an E.T. video game for its 2600 console.

“It was a game that was done in five weeks,” said game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, who went to the excavation site. “It was a very brief development.”

Atari rushed the process to get the game in stores by Christmas. It ended up not being worth it, selling only 3.5 million copies by fall of the following year. The company continued to collapse and committed a cardinal gaming nerd sin: it dumped the cartridges. Atari loaded up 14 truckloads of merchandise, including the unsold inventory of E.T., and drove it to the desert for disposal. Then it poured a layer of concrete over it to ensure that no one would ever dig it up.

But 30 years later, thanks to an effort led and filmed by Microsoft’s Xbox Entertainment Studios for a documentary on Atari, the shitty E.T. game is getting a second chance at love. The documentary makers have been cleared to take 250 cartridges or 10 percent of whatever they dig up, whichever is greater. The games no longer work, but what is one man’s trash is another game hoarder’s treasure.

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