Excavation of the Atari Landfill Burial Site Postponed by New Mexico Courts

In May of 2013, an entertainment and video company based out of Canada received approval to dig at a landfill in Alamogordo City, New Mexico. It is believed that Atari, once the largest name in the home and arcade video gaming industries, dispatched dozens of dump trucks filled with unwanted video game cartridges to the Alamogordo City dump. It is rumored that more than three million copies of the failed E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was unceremoniously disposed of by Atari just before going under. In the beginning of the 1980s Atari was the leader, selling approximately four fifths of all coin-op arcade machines, home consoles and video games to consumers. Starting around the time that they premiered E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Atari’s total value shrank by more than 50%.

Many, many copies of another failed Atari video game port, Pac-Man, has also been spotted at the New Mexico landfill. Canadian video producer, Fuel Industries, also wants to find out if the rumors about Atari Mindlink controller prototypes being thrown away are true. The Atari Mindlink would have been the first controller powered by player muscle movement rather than key compression. The excavation itself is to be filmed by Fuel Industries and Xbox Entertainment Studios, if the city of Alamogordo stops changing its mind.

Despite giving Fuel Industries permission to excavate the site, which has been sealed over in multiple layers of concrete, Alamogordo City officials recently decided that the film company’s plan doesn’t meet safety protocol. No longer actively used as a dumping ground, the landfill has tested positive for more than 20 dangerous compounds. Fuel Industries will need to detail a plan for dealing with all aspects of dangerous waste materials if it wants to go forward with the Atari burial ground excavation.

Finding a cache of the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in an abandoned landfill would help to solve a lot of the questions that video game historians have about the end of Atari. When the title was first announced, Atari knew that it was taking a risk on a game that had not first been released for classic arcade machines. Less than two million copies sold worldwide, and Atari was left with a highly unmarketable game. Fuel Industries may just uncover whether or not Atari really sent a Warner Bros. licensed title straight to the dump.