Copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and other Atari games that were dumped into a landfill in New Mexico in 1983 because the company thought they were worthless are now selling for hundreds of dollars a piece on eBay .
The auction is the end result of the excavation project that sought to settle the myth of the Atari landfill once and for all. The city of Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the landfill is located, is making up to 1,300 cartridges of E.T. and other titles available for public distribution through eBay and other methods. Judging from the prices that some of these dirty, smashed, non-working games are going for, it looks like there are quite a few people who want to own a piece of video game history.
Prior to the exhuming of the cartridges, the story of the Atari video game burial was frequently cited over the last 30 years as a prime example of the fallout from the crash of the video game industry in the early 1980s. While rooted in truth, the story grew into an urban legend over the last three decades, with some claiming that Atari dumped millions of cartridges of E.T., which is still widely considered to be one of the biggest commercial failures and worst video games of all-time.
The Alamogordo City Commission granted the right to excavate the landfill to Fuel Industries, a Canadian entertainment company, in May 2013. Excavation began in April of this year and it is estimated that there are about 700,000 cartridges in the dump. Some of the 1,300 recovered cartridges were given to museums and others went to the producers of a documentary on the landfill that will air later this year. Now, the city has begun selling the remaining copies on eBay. The city expects to sell between 700 and 800 total copies through the auction site. In addition to E.T., copies of Centipede, Warlords, Missile Command, Star Raiders and more are being offered for sale.
The cartridges are being sold as-is and are obviously not guaranteed to work, although it should be noted that when the landfill was first excavated, construction workers did find copies that were still inside their original boxes.
Perhaps the most amusing part of the auction is the fact that they are being classified on eBay as “Used Games.” That’s humorous just because no one has ever actually played these titles, so the argument could be made per eBay’s guidelines for video games that they are “New”… if you can overlook the crushed to bits part.
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