Which Game Company Buried Over 5 Million Games In The Desert?
A long standing 1980s urban legend states that Atari drove millions of games out to a remote location in New Mexico and offloaded them in the desert to be forgotten beneath the sands. While a bit hyperbolic in the retelling, the urban legend is solidly based on the truth.
In the early 1980s, Atari was on the ropes. Once the king of the console castle, the company’s earnings were down, it’s new console–the Atari 5200–was a commercial failure, and a series of dubious releases left them with returns of unsold cartridges numbering in the millions. One of their worst lineup choices was releasing a poorly implemented title based on the popular movie E.T. The game was so poorly received that over three million unsold cartridges were returned to Atari.
Rather than lose money storing the panned title (and its other failed siblings), they contracted their disposal out to a small land fill in Alamogrodo, New Mexico. In the fall of 1983 almost two dozen semi-trailer loads of E.T. and millions of other failed titles were hauled out to the remote location, dumped, run over with a steam roller, and then–in a rather curious move outside the normal routine of the disposal facility–capped with a concrete slab. Three decades later, the abandoned cartridges are still entombed out in the bad lands of New Mexico.