back to article Lost treasure of Atari REVEALED

Yes, Atari really did bury lots of cartridges for a dud game titled E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in a New Mexico landfill, according to film-makers who broke out the heavy digging equipment late last week. A recap for the uninitiated: In 1983, as The New York Times reported, Atari secured the rights to turn E.T. the Extra- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't understand the fuss

    I could understand if you were to go digging for rare games or prototype consoles, but ET is a rotten games and is very very common.

    As for the games being unharmed by 30 years in the ground, New Mexico is very dry. In the UK the boxes and labels wouldn't have survived very long at all.

    In terms of video games, the story of the fabled Konix Multisystem and the mystery that surrounds it is far more interesting than the ET carts. Perhaps one for El Reg to cover in the future?

    1. 1Rafayal

      Re: Don't understand the fuss

      I think the fuss is all about the impact this had on the industry, as opposed to the quality of the game itself.

      Lets face it, E.T had massive implications for the video game market and helped us get the quality standards we have today.

      On a personal note, I would love to own one of the cartridges. I imagine a whole bunch will end up on Ebay at some point, probably with authentic "New Mexico Sand" in the packaging...

    2. SuccessCase

      Re: Don't understand the fuss

      If my memory serves me rightly, ET was released before it was scrapped. I have a memory of an ET sprite with the head moving independently of the body (an overlapping second sprite). I didn't buy it but remember seeing it quite well. Surely someone somewhere has a copy.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Don't understand the fuss

        If my memory serves me rightly, ET was released before it was scrapped

        Yes. Many people had a copy - I did.

        I thought the Reg ran an ET story not long back, after which there was much discussion of the game and just how awful it was (with the occasional contrarian advocating for the devil), but that may have been another site. I'm feeling too lazy at the moment to search for the article in question (which is why I'm not making a snarky remark about your relying on memory rather than looking it up).

    3. T.Omoto

      Re: Don't understand the fuss

      Yes, please, the Konix Multisystem (and it's connection to both the fabled Spectrum "Loki/Flare One" successor and the Atari Jaguar) is one of the most amazing computer stories out there that needs some serious reporting (hardware-side, not Retro Gamer pish) done.

    4. Daniel B.

      Re: Don't understand the fuss

      I'd think that the ET dig is because it was the first time a game flopped so hard, the manufacturer had to do this dump. Then there's a certain curiosity to find the game that was so bad that it not only bombed, it brought down the whole video game industry into the Great Crash of 1983. To put it in more recent history, this would be as if Battlefield Earth had sent all Hollywood Studios into bankruptcy.

      Then again, ET is probably 'buried evil' in this sense. Microsoft funded the expedition, maybe that's why their Xbox1 isn't selling?

  2. silent_count


    No doubt Microsoft kicked in some cash to fund the search - after the ET cartridges have been excavated, Microsoft then has somewhere to bury their unsold Surface 1's.. which will acquire urban legend status and will in turn be excavated around in around thirty years.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: 2044

      They'll probably add the Xbox1 there as well. And the now defunct LucasArts will probably want to bury their unsold copies of Star Wars Kinect as well...

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: 2044

        And the now defunct LucasArts will probably want to bury their unsold copies of Star Wars Kinect as well...

        And deprive future generations of the site of Han Solo dancing? Those bastards!

  3. Tank boy

    What's old is new again.

    I can't imagine why they'd go to the trouble to dig the things up, but there may be some educational value to see how things were done back in the 'good old days'. Ok, enough of this, I'm going to play Yars Revenge.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: What's old is new again.

      See what was done?

      How they used to dump trash back then?

      Or how to completely mismanage and ruin a game before even a single line of code was written?

      There's a lot of examples of that already. No need to dig one up...

  4. Winkypop Silver badge

    Excavating Trash

    30 years in the ground and still crap.

    TBH, I didn't like the film either.

  5. opaque


    The legend is not lots of cartridges, it's MILLIONS.

    Lots of cartridges and equipment used to make them were thrown away around that time as the factories were being changed, that is not denied. It's the scale that is the issue. Finding a few isn't the same thing.

    Would be happy to see them find millions though, will make for a good tv programme.

    1. John Deeb

      Re: Mmmmm

      Or a SF movie like Tremors: innocent geeks being swallowed by a million angry unloved cartridges. They're unstoppable! Now heading for Hollywood and Sunnyvale, to wreak utter revenge on their unsuspecting heartless makers.

  6. Alan Bourke

    ET was indeed released on the VCS

    and is not as bad as the big boys said down at the internet. It's shite, like, but I've played a *lot* worse.

    1. T.Omoto

      Re: ET was indeed released on the VCS

      The big boys down at the review magazines back in the era said it was crap because they had buggy prerelease copies (albeit retail was apparently not much better) and by the fact the heavily hyped game being nowhere close to what was promised.

  7. Van

    The legend I remember reading was that 'Atari dug a hole in the desert', which added mystery as if it was done secretly in a random place. Being carted down to the local landfill with everybody else's stuff is a bit disappointing.

  8. Valeyard

    A lesson truly learned

    The very idea of spewing out rubbish games with a movie license attached in a cynical attempt to extract money out of trusting parents for their disappointed children

    Thanks heavens we don't do THAT anymore

    1. WraithCadmus

      Re: A lesson truly learned

      Most good licensed games have not been tied-in. The Batman Arkham games weren't part of the film, Goldeneye came out some time after the film, Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People was really just a continuation of sbemail.

      What great licensed games have been simultaneous releases? Anyone?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A lesson truly learned

        Robocop, ZX Spectrum.

        But you're right, nowadays production of a decent game is too much work to risk putting it under the timescales and whims of change of an ongoing movie production. Only the best stuff now is done independently of the movie, but to sell well it needs to be a movie or franchise with a popular or strong cult following to make an impact, since you can no longer ride on the movie's own release hype.

        And I'd put forward Alien Trilogy and Die Hard Trilogy (along with Goldeneye) as some of the first such examples.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: A lesson truly learned

        What great licensed games have been simultaneous releases?

        Dunno about "great", but I played The Goonies a couple of times on the Atari ST and it was pretty good. Interesting co-op gameplay.

        The real question, I think, are where are all the tie-in games we should have had. There's a famously abysmal Jurassic Park game, but where's the Grizzly Man game? ("You have been eaten by a bear.") Or the Law and Order game. (Investigate interchangeable homicides! Prosecute suspects in court, mostly through closed-door meetings with your boss! Repeat until the heat death of the universe!) Or the video game of Midnight's Children - it won the "Booker of Bookers", for cryin' out loud.

  9. Andrew Pearson

    I actually have this game and a old working atari!

    I thought I'd fire it up for old times sake and yes my memory is correct - the hgaem as beyond terrible.

    The only animation seems to be ET's nice moving up to let him levitate...obviously!

    Get the cartridges and bury them deeper!

  10. WraithCadmus

    Oh God

    He's touching it! With bare hands!

  11. FartingHippo

    Raiders of the Lost Cart

    Excavation in the desert? Check.

    Relic of previous era? Check.

    Relic has potential for great evil (those f*cking pits)? Check.

    Shut your eyes, Marion. Don't look at it, no matter what happens!

    Duh. duh, duh-duh, duh-duh-duh. Etc.

  12. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Hey Gringo...

    No bodies left over from a cartel pro cleaning?

    I thought this was Mexico?

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Francis Boyle

      It's New Mexico

      so it probably means they were really looking for $80M in cash buried in plastic barrels.

  13. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Choice of burial site and reasons for exhuming

    I thought they chose the New Mexico desert in the misguided hope that nuclear weapon testing would vaporise their stockpile of toxic waste. Unfortunately they were ill-informed about the chosen test sites subsequent to completion of the Manhattan project. So now the offending articles are being exhumed and shipped to North Korea with the promise of molecular-level annihilation some time soon.

  14. Jim 59

    Buried treasure

    I demand that The Register sends a man with a spade to win this treasure for Blighty.

  15. Truth4u

    foolproof business plan

    1. Buy rights to make the game for a popular movie

    2. make the game as poor quality as possible, showing obvious contempt for customers

    3. make millions of copies

    4. everyone will buy it because ..hey Spielberg right?

    5. profit

  16. phy445

    Apple Lisa next?

    If memory serves Apple buried thousands of Lisas back in the eighties. I wonder if there will be an attempt to get at these?

    1. hugo tyson

      Re: Apple Lisa next?

      First we need to recover the Acorn Electrons. Can we get them back in time for Xmas this time?

  17. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Well perhaps it's more a chance to...

    Remember that whimsical industrial dumping of this type is no longer really tolerable and to dispose of them in a decent manner. Put them all on eBay for the collectors of flying BMXs, and the stranded Aliens amongst us.

  18. Matthew 3

    Bitcoin hard drive?

    For a better return on investment, why not send a Reg reporter down to the Newport landfill to search for James Howells' hard drive containing £4 million worth of bitcoin?

  19. NP-Hardass

    So not worth it.

    I own this game, and I can confidently say, that it is so not worth the effort they went through to find it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder how much

    gold they can reclaim from the rom chips....

  21. PirateKing

    There was a reason why they buried them

    The game sucked that bad... but NooOoOoooo.. someone had to spend money that could have been used to help the world elsewhere to dig up these vile things for what?

  22. Daniel B.

    At least it did serve a purpose

    It proved that the Atari ET cartridge dump was real. But it seems that part of the myth was indeed untrue, as the cartridges aren't crushed. Maybe they couldn't crush them all?

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