E.T. is finally heading home after a long pit stop in the New Mexico desert, but strangely it seems that home could be the Smithsonian, among other places.
In late April, a documentary film crew got permission to excavate a section of a landfill in the town of Alamogordo where urban legend held that a struggling Atari had dumped many truck-loads of games and equipment three decades ago, including copies of its most legendary flop, a game based on the blockbuster film "E.T."
This bit of postmodern archaeology turned out to be a success, and according to city documents seen by the Alamogordo Daily News, a total of 1,377 games were found. Surprisingly, "E.T." was not the most popular title unearthed. Only 171 copies of the game were found, compared to 190 copies of "Centipede." Other popular games dug up included 116 Defenders, 59 Missile Commands, 99 Warlords, and 53 Asteroids.
In total, 60 different game titles came out of the landfill, but there's likely still much more underground. A consultant involved in the dig reported to city leaders that there could be nearly 800,000 more cartridges still buried in the landfill.
There appears to be a few reasons for leaving all those games in the ground (the hole dug has already been re-filled). The same consultant told the city commission that retrieving a relatively small amount of games makes them more valuable, but also noted that the documentary companies involved had to spend $50,000 just to dig as deep as they did.
"The dig was a lot deeper, a lot more than they thought they would have to go," Alamogordo Mayor Susie Galea told Polygon later. "They thought it was going to be 18 feet down and it was 30 instead."
Galea told IGN that the city will be setting aside about 500 of the excavated games for museums, including the Smithsonian, and 100 will be given to the companies producing the film, leaving about 700 for the city to sell, possibly via a public auction.
The commission plans to meet June 10 to decide how to go about selling the cartridges. Here's hoping they set aside a few for New Mexico residents at a discounted rate.