What this generation needs is its own Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault. It got that today, as hundreds of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video games were exhumed in a New Mexico landfill as part of an upcoming documentary from Marvel's The Avengers and X-Men: The Last Stand writer Zak Penn.
Atari's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is considered one of the worst video games of all time. It hit the market in 1982, just a few months after Steven Spielberg's sci-fi adventure became a box office blockbuster and one of the most beloved movies of all time. Atari paid $21 million for the rights to the title, but then rushed the game into development. They spent five and a half weeks on the game's storyline, hurrying to have the release ready for Christmas. To break even on the rights, the company had to sell 4 million copies. 5 million copies were produced, and only 1.5 million were actually sold to 1.5 million very disappointed video game fans. A good number of those units sold were returned to the store because the quality of the game was considered horrendous.
Many people believe that Atari's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game caused the video game crash of 1983, and brought about the demise of Atari in the gaming sector. Since that time, it has become an urban legend that in September of 1983, Atari dumped 14 trucks worth of unopened game cartridges into a New Mexico landfill. Now, more than 30 years later, Zak Penn has successfully dug up these cartridges, proving the urban legend to be real.
Here are photos and tweets from the archeological dig. Indiana Jones would be so proud. Steven Spielberg, not so much.
Hundreds of the discarded video game cartridges were unearthed, with over 200 residents and video game enthusiasts looking on. The landfill was covered in concrete, and it took a backhoe to break through to the buried treasure. Of the find, Zak Penn stated:
"I feel pretty relieved and psyched that they actually got to see something."
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial wasn't the only thing they found. Amongst the trash was a whole bunch of boxes, games and other Atari products. What will become of all these games that no one wanted way back in 1983? Will fans get to own a piece of this historical moment? Or will it all go back in the trash? Hopefully Zak Penn's Untitled E.T. Video Game Documentary will answer these burning questions.