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Infamous video game landfill faces excavation

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Credit: Atari)

One of gaming’s greatest mysteries might soon be uncovered.

You’ve likely heard the tale before: Millions of unsold copies of the disastrous ET: The Extraterrestrial game for the Atari 2600 lie buried in a New Mexico landfill. Despite a slew of believers and evidence supporting the story, doubters remain. But in the next few months, we'll have the answer once and for all.

The Alamogordo City Commission has approved a deal that will allow for the excavation of the landfill to see what, exactly, is buried there. The big dig will be filmed by Fuel Industries, a Canadian film production company with plans to create a documentary about the gaming legend.

Fuel has access to the landfill for the next six months, which would put it there on the 30th anniversary of the dump. Alamogordo, as you might suspect, is hoping to raise awareness of the town -- and perhaps attract a few tourists to the area.

"I hope more people find out about Alamogordo through this opportunity that we have to unearth the Atari games in the landfill," said Mayor Susie Galea.

The whole project is hinging on the memory of one individual -- Joe Lewandowski -- who ran a garbage company at the time and says he knows exactly where the games are buried.

The dig could be a Geraldo-like failure, of course, but even if Lewandowski does know where the games are buried, they're not likely to be in any playable form. Atari reportedly crushed them before disposing of them.

With good reason, too. E.T. is a game that almost single-handedly killed the home video game console business in the 1980s. Atari rushed the development process and bypassed QA to get the game on shelves, resulting in a confusing, buggy title that lacked any viable entertainment qualities.

Hackers, incidentally, have since issued a 'fix' for the game, but that's not likely to alter its legacy.

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