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Legendary Atari video game stash uncovered in the New Mexico desert

It’s been the stuff of urban legend for over thirty years: Did Atari dump a huge stockpile of its unwanted video games in the desert during the early 1980s? This weekend, the truth has been uncovered, as construction workers digging around Alamogordo, New Mexico found copies of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in a landfill site.

Why does this matter? The game is considered as one of the worst titles to ever be released (it was completed in six weeks rather than the usual six months) and the find represents closure on an important chapter in video game history. With consumer interest plummeting and its games flopping during the first half of the 1980s, Atari was stuck with truckloads of unwanted games and other hardware, prompting it to take the unusual step of dumping a large part of its inventory altogether.

The drastic move was reported by the New York Times in 1983, but has never been fully verified — in fact, some in the industry have denied that it ever happened. Now we know that it did take place, and it’s thanks to a video games documentary being made by Xbox Entertainment Studios for the Xbox One. The company ordered the dig to shed new light on the truth behind what IGN calls “one of gaming’s greatest mysteries.”

Excavation work continues, and you can check the on-site IGN report for further updates. It’s an important archaeological find for gamers, as E.T. represents one of the industry’s costliest and most significant failures, one that could have killed video gaming for good.

[Image courtesy of Larry Hryb]

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