- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2015

Atari’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” has been called the worst video game in history by industry experts and gamers alike. But more than 30 years after it was released — and after nearly a million unsold copies buried in a landfill — cartridges excavated from a New Mexico dumping ground have garnered more than $100,000 through online auctions.

Joe Lewandowski, an operational consultant who helped locate the cache last year, said 881 video games recovered during the dig have fetched $107,930 on eBay.

“E.T.” was released in 1982, but Atari got rid of roughly 700,000 cartridges the following year when poor reviews and an industry slump saw the company sitting on more copies than it could sell.

The unusual method of disposal was the basis of urban legends in the years after until Mr. Lewandowski and a documentary film crew located the trove last April in an Alamogordo, New Mexico, landfill and confirmed that Atari had in fact disposed of “E.T.” cartridges and other games by the truckful three decades earlier.

Mr. Lewandowski appeared at a city commission meeting in Alamogordo last week and said the salvaged games sold on eBay for a staggering $107,930.15. A little more than half of that will be given to the city, and the Tularosa Basin Historical Society will receive $16,259.44. The remaining funds will go toward the cost of the April 2014 dig.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a real naysayer of what was going to transpire with the sale of the games, but I have to say I am so impressed with what you’ve done,” City Commissioner Nadia Sikes told Mr. Lewandowski, the Alamogordo News reported. “Under no circumstances did I ever think you were going to sell over $60,000 worth of games.”

Mr. Lewandowski said he put aside 297 “E.T.” cartridges that could potentially be put on the market at a later date, for contingencies such as a sequel to the Steven Spielberg film being made and released. Of the cartridges recovered during the dig, 100 went to the studio and 23 ended up in museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and others in Canada and Germany.

Sales from the auctions generated more than $26,000 in shipping fees and other expenses, and the most any individual cartridge sold for was $1,535, Mr. Lewandowski said.

“I’m hoping that if the second movie ever comes out, I can release some more games,” he said. “It would increase their value for the city.”

Around 60 other games were discovered during last year’s dig, including the more popular “Asteroids,” “Missile Command” and “Defender.” “E.T.,” meanwhile, has been named the worst game ever by PCWorld and Electronic Gaming Monthly.

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