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access_time December 11, 2013 at 1:22 PM in Features by Charlie Grammer

Gamebusters myth 5: Atari buries games in New Mexico landfill

Did Atari really dump a ton of games into a New Mexico landfill?

Did Atari really dump a ton of games into a New Mexico landfill?

It’s time for a new installment of our Gamebusters feature. This week we’ll be tackling the myth of whether Atari truly buried games in a New Mexico landfill. But first, for those unaware of the myth, we’ll examine the history.

According to the myth, back in 1983, Atari performed a mass burial of video games, consoles, and computers in a New Mexico landfill. This news was first reported by the Alamogordo Daily News back in September 1983, who stated in a series of articles that between 10 and 20 semi-trailer truckloads of Atari boxes, cartridges, and systems from an Atari storehouse in El Paso, Texas were crushed and buried at the landfill within the city limits.

This was reportedly Atari’s first experience with the landfill, which they had chosen for the simple fact that no scavenging was allowed within, as well as the fact that all garbage within the landfill was crushed and buried nightly. Atari went on to state that the reason for the burial burial was that they were changing from Atari 2600 to Atari 5200 games, although a worker later claimed that the story was not true. Bruce Enten, an Atari official, stated that the company was mostly sending broken and returned material to the dumb, claiming that what was buried was, “by-and-large inoperable stuff”.

On September 27, 1983, the news service UPI reported that “people watching the operation said it included cassettes of the popular video games E.T., Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, the consoles used to convey the games to television screens, and high-priced personal computers.” Knight-Ridder, a news service, further reported on kids looting the dump on September 28. They stated, “kids in this town of 25,000 began robbing the Atari grave, coming up with cartridges of such games as E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Defender, and Bezerk.”

Myth or fact? This is one gaming myth that turns out to be true. On September 28, 1983, the New York Times reported on the dumping, and later, a representative of Atari confirmed that the rumor was true. This representative stated that the discarded inventory came from their plant in El Paso, Texas, which was being closed down and converted to a recycling facility.

If there are any myths in particular you want us to tackle, feel free to let us know in the comments.


  • Ramon Aranda December 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    That damn E.T. game…man did that suck!

  • Charlie Grammer December 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I’d say I agree, but I honestly don’t recall playing it. I’m sure I did at some point, I probably just blocked it out 😛

  • ubernaut December 12, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    such a shame.

  • Atari Book December 13, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Not a big mystery, we already presented what actually happened in the book. It was just a clearing out of the El Passo plant (exactly what was reported: games, consoles, computers) as it transitioned to becoming automated and focusing mostly on hardware and repairs (being a main hub of the Atari Service Center network).

  • Kevin December 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Those saying ET really sucked probably never played it. It wasn’t the greatest game around or anything, but there was far worse out in those days. As a preteen kid in those days, I remember enjoying the game and finishing a number of times (if you were a kid back then you learned to enjoy what you got as getting new games usually only happen a couple times a year.). It was only years later that I found out that the game had gotten a bad rep which turned out to be grounded in being to complex in those days when games were expected to model the simplicity of those in the arcade.

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  • […] Gamebusters Myth 5: Atari Buries Games in New Mexico Landfill. […]

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