Treasure hunt for long-buried ‘E.T.’ video games to begin in New Mexico

E.T. may have phoned home in the hit 1982 feature film, but the mass-produced 1982 video game of the same name had trouble finding enough homes to play it.

In fact, so many cartridges went unsold or returned that a rumor started claiming that game-maker Atari had extra inventory of the “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” game buried in a city landfill located in Alamogordo, New Mexico. A planned dig now hopes to uncover the games, if they exist, and along the way take a look at the product that many believe contributed to Atari’s fall from the top of the then-burgeoning video game industry.

Companies Fuel Entertainment and LightBox Interactive — after receiving permission to dig in May 2013 — faced initial roadblocks from the New Mexico Environmental Department, which seeked a revised waste excavation plan. The companies, however, say plans haven’t been halted and they hope to start searching the 100-acre area within four to six weeks — and they hope to turn it into a documentary.

“We thought this has got a really neat story to it. Why don’t we do some digging?” Mike Burns of Fuel Entertainment told The Guardian. “This almost killed Atari: it was a major pop culture shift, and it could have really impacted how gaming turned out long-term. It’s a critical turning point.”