City Hopes to Unravel Atari Burial Legend
PHOTO: A Canadian studio has been given permission to search a landfill to find bad Atari games, including E.T.

(Atari)

The 1982 Atari 2600 "E.T." video game adaptation of the Steven Spielberg film "E.T." was so unplayable that, according to a longstanding urban legend, millions of unsold or returned copies were buried at a landfill site in the city Alamogordo, N.M., in 1983.

Now, 30 years later, a Canadian-based film production and entertainment company, Fuel Industries, has decided to search the local landfill and hopes to make a documentary about it, city officials told ABCNews.com.

"The reason behind the urban legends surrounding the Atari dump is because Atari denies the fact that it tried to bury the video games in the city," Alamogordo Mayor Susie Galea said. "We don't even know the exact location of the site because it is in a 100-acre landfill."

Fuel Industries recently sealed a deal with the city of Alamogordo to excavate the reported Atari dump site, Alamogordo City Commissioner James Talbert told ABC News.

"The landfill is located southwest of the city but is still within city limits," Talbert said.

Fuel Industries did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Ben King, 39, who grew up in and still lives in Alamogordo, recalled the dumping incident and believed there was some degree of truth to it.

"I was maybe around 8 or 10 years old when this happened, and I remember when they did it," said King who still owns an Atari set but never played Atari 2600 "ET" game. "I remember people going out there to dig up the site to get the games. To stop them, they [the city] placed concrete over them."

King never expected the incident would come back to life three decades later.

"It will be interesting to see what condition the video games are in and how people will use them," he said.

Galea said that the concrete could have preserved the video games.

Both she and Talbert thought the excavation and subsequent movie will promote Alamogordo's tourism.

"It's a small city," Talbert said. "Now, people will hear about it from the movie and the … location will be a tourist attraction."

"What they're trying to dig up is more than trash," Galea added. "I realized the gaming industry is larger than the entertainment industry and the end of Atari might have brought the rise of Nintendo. … For the gaming community, this is an exciting prospect for the history of Atari."

Galea added that when the alleged dumping took place, the land was privately owned.

"The city did not know about it at the time," she said. "It is only when people started flocking to the site to dig the video games up and try to sell them that the city took action and asked Atari to stop dumping."

Galea said nine out of 29 truckloads were dumped.

"The scarier part is that we don't even know where the rest have been dumped," she said.

The excavations will start sometime after 30 days from now, because the city and Fuel Industries are finalizing logistical and contractual details.

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