Remember Atari's E.T. (yes, the Extra-Terrestrial) Video Game? We Don't Either

Remember Atari—arcade and game console giant of the 1970s and 1980s? The company was eventually edged out by Nintendo, and Sega, and it may be all but obsolete now, but Atari was huge in its heyday. And what else was all the rage in the 80s? E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The brown, wrinkly alien took the world by storm, so it seemed like a marriage made in heaven when Atari paid gads of money to secure the rights for a video game adaptation of the movie. Sadly, development went horribly wrong, and the E.T. game was broadly panned both as fundamentally awful, and barely even reminiscent of the movie. It was the beginning of the end for Atari, and the company was left with stacks on stacks of unsold game cartridges.

Like all good lore, what happened next is a mystery, but a rumor developed that on April 26, 1989 Atari ditched thousands of these leftover cartridges in a landfill in southern New Mexico—left to bake in the desert sun as abandoned vestiges of Reagan-era pop culture.  

But what one large corporation began, another large corporation will finish: Microsoft just announced that on this year’s April 26 anniversary of the alleged ditch, the company’s Xbox division will host a public excavation (and documentary filming, for any aspiring personalities out there) of the landfill to finally get to the bottom of the E.T. shenanigans. This is what happens when monied nerds listen to grassroots nerds: nerds unite!

Not word one about what the Microsoft reps will do with the cartridges, if they are found. Perhaps they should be left: one day when human-kind is long extinct, or residing on Mars (or Saturn’s moon), perhaps actual extraterrestrials scanning the earth will find the giant pit of E.T. game cartridges, and see that we humans called out their presence. Now wouldn’t that be poetic?  


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