Unearthed 'E.T.' Atari Games Sell for $108,000 at Auction

Nearly 900 cartridges from urban legend-proving Alamogordo, New Mexico excavation are sold

Nearly 900 Atari cartridges from an April 2014 Alamogordo, New Mexico excavation sold at auction for $108,000. Credit: AP

Unearthed copies containing what's hailed as the worst video game of all time proved to be a valuable commodity as an online auction of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial Atari cartridges netted over $108,000. Nearly 900 copies of the infamously terrible video game were sold on eBay after an April 2014 excavation in Alamogordo, New Mexico confirmed the urban legend that thousands of the cartridges were buried following the game's critical and commercial failure.

A documentary about the dig, Atari: Game Over, premiered in November 2014. Since then, the excavators, led by operational consultant Joe Lewandowski, have sold off copies of the buried treasure to gamers eager for a piece of video game history, the Alamogardo News reports (via Complex). The most an E.T. cartridge sold for at auction was $1,535.

"There's 297 we're still holding in an archive that we'll sell at a later date when we decide what to do with them," Lewandowski said. "I might sell those if a second movie comes out but for now we're just holding them. The film company got 100 games, 23 went to museums and we had 881 that we actually sold."

The city of Alamogordo will receive $65,000 from the sale, while the Tularosa Basin Historical Society gets over $16,000. The remainder of the money went towards shipping fees as buyers in 45 states and 14 countries scooped up copies of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.

The game was released in 1982 after just 34 days of development in order to cash in on the blockbuster popularity of the Steven Spielberg film. The following year brought the video game crash of 1983, a recession in the industry sparked in part by the failed E.T. game. In 1984, Atari was sold off by its parent company.

For decades, it was rumored that Atari had buried millions of video game cartridges in New Mexico, and despite denials by the video game company throughout the years, the 2014 excavation proved the myth true. Other Atari 2600 games dug up by Lewandowski - Asteroids, Missile Command, Centipede, etc. – were also sold at auction.