BBC News

ET game excavation confirmed by studio

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter, BBC News

image copyrightAtari
image captionThe Atari 2600 game based on the film ET was very badly received by players after its release in time for Christmas in 1982

A Canadian studio has confirmed to the BBC it will search a former landfill site in New Mexico where Atari's much-criticised ET game may be buried.

Fuel Entertainment has permission from the city of Alamogordo to excavate and is finalising funding for the project.

The video game was among the first to be licensed from a film franchise and was based on the Spielberg film ET.

Despite the success of the film the game was very badly received and Atari suffered huge financial losses.

It was released at Christmas 1982 for the Atari 2600 console but many copies were returned and the game was given terrible reviews.

Shortly afterwards the entire video games industry crashed, as PCs started to become more widespread.

Urban legend

In September 1983 the firm is said to have dumped millions of cartridges at the landfill site and buried them under concrete.

Fuel Entertainment - which has offices in Ottawa, Canada and Los Angeles and Seattle in the US - has six months to carry out its search, to coincide with the 30th anniversary.

"ET was one of the first videogames based on a licensed property, and one of the earliest and most poignant examples of mass over-hyping in digital entertainment," Mike Burns, CEO of Fuel Entertainment, told the BBC.

"With the city of Alamogordo's approval to explore the dump site, we're currently looking forward to moving further into the planning and preparation process."

Atari has never confirmed whether it did dump the games there and journalists were kept away when several trucks arrived from the firm's El Paso plant in Texas.

Local resident Joe Lewandowski, who worked at the site at the time, told the Almogordo Daily News that he saw "games and other Atari related brick-a-brac" bulldozed and buried in concrete.

However Mr Burns has admitted that Fuel Entertainment's search may prove fruitless.

"We don't know exactly what we'll find, but it's bound to be interesting," he said.

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