"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," a game that was so terrible it is widely believed to have caused the demise of Atari and the entire video game industry in the 1980s, is now selling online on eBay and is fetching hundreds of dollars far more than its original selling price.
The City of Alamogordo in New Mexico, through the Tularosa Basin Historical Society (TBHS), is selling on eBay 99 games that were unearthed from the Alamogordo landfill in the desert of New Mexico earlier this year, including classic games such as "Asteroids," "Missile Commands" and "Star Raiders" which are being auctioned off with a starting bid of $50. The entire star of the show, however, is Howard Scott Warshaw's game version of Steven Spielberg's film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" for the Atari 2600, which was so widely derided that Atari decided to dump hundreds of thousands of unsold copies along with other titles in 1983.
More than two decades later, the largely unloved titles are fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay as a collector's item. As of press time, the highest bid reached up to $635 with more than seven days still left until the auction ends. The TBHS, however, stresses that some of the games may no longer be playable since they have been buried for so long.
"This game is one of the limited numbers recovered from the Old Alamogordo Landfill, also known as the Atari Dump. Purchaser will receive the game as portrayed in photo above," the listing for the Atari 2600 'E.T.' reads. "The seller does not represent that this item is operable; it was buried for 30 years. Sold as is."
The winning bidder will also receive a Certificate of Authenticity from the City of Alamogordo, along with a narrative and photos of the burial in 1983, some of which no one has seen according to the listing, and the excavation in June that was part of the filming of a Microsoft-funded documentary that proved true the urban legend of the buried Atari video games.
"We have bids from all over the world wanting a piece of this gaming history. Places like Sweden, Denmark and Canada just to name a few want to get their hands on them," says TBHS vice president Joe Lewandowski in an interview with the Alamogordo News. "I never expected the prices to be this high in the beginning. They usually start to go higher towards the end."
Once the first 100 games are sold, the TBHS will sell around 850 more games with 19 titles in two subsequent auctions, with 60 to 70 of these being "E.T." games.
"Then that is it. This will never occur again," says the TBHS. "There will not be very many more in the box, most will be cartridges only."
Out of 1,300 games that were unearthed from the Alamogordo excavation, 150 of which were "E.T.s" and Lewandowski says some 792,000 cartridges are still buried because they are too expensive to dig out. Another 3.5 million games are buried elsewhere, says Lewandowski, but he says he cannot disclose where.