Atari Landfill Excavation: Thousands of Terrible 'E.T.' Games Buried in NM Town?

1980s 'E.T.' Game Legend to Be Uncovered in Documentary

An Atari landfill in the New Mexico town of Alamogordo will be excavated to potentially find thousands of copies of the infamous "E.T." game, which is widely regarded as one of the worst games of all time. Fuel Industries is hoping to uncover the legend in the next six months and document their findings.

The Atari landfill legend began in 1982, when the game company attempted to capitalize on Steven Spielberg's success with the "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" film. After paying millions for the rights to the characters, Atari made too many copies of the game, leaving many unsold and unceremoniously dumped into Alamogordo's landfill.

The city commission approved a deal with Fuel Industries Tuesday to dig up the 100-acre landfill, although they have only six months to find the trove of unused or returned games.

Joe Lewandowski ran a garbage company in the 1980s and claimed that more than just nine truckloads of "E.T." games were dumped in 1983.

"It was the game systems, actually the game systems themselves it was actual cartridges and games, 'E.T.' and so on," he told KRQE news.

However, some don't believe in the legend, calling it little more than a myth.

"There were never thousands of E.T. games buried in Alamogordo, that's a myth that sprung up later and was also never once mentioned by the actual press articles of the time," Marty Goldberg, co-author of "Atari Inc.: Business is Fun" told "The dump there was simply a clearing out of Atari's Texas manufacturing plant as it transitioned to automated production methods."

"The unused cartridge stock of a group of titles (not just E.T.), console parts and computer parts were all dumped there in New Mexico. … [It's] such a non-mystery that I'm surprised by all of this," he added.

Whether the games are buried there or not, the "E.T." game holds the coveted title of one of the worst games ever and has since gained a cult following. Although it sold 1.5 million copies around the time of its release, the game was developed in less than five weeks, and Spielberg was said to be unimpressed with the prototype.

The dig also represents a unique opportunity for Alamogordo, a small town of around 40,000.

"I hope more people find out about Alamogordo through this opportunity that we have to unearth the Atari games in the landfill," Mayor Susie Galea told