The Atari 2600 gaming console (known as the Video Computer System, VCS) was launched in 1977 and soon became a huge hit, selling 1 million units in 1979. Likewise, the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, released in 1982, was itself a phenomenon, becoming the highest grossing movie of the 1980s. Unfortunately, the combination of these two blockbusters, which took the form of the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game created for the Atari 2600 system, was a disaster of epic proportions.
The game was created in about 5 weeks during the summer of 1982, to have it ready for that year’s holiday season. The highly compressed development time, however, contributed to it being considered one of the worst video games of all time. Despite selling 1.5 million units, good enough to make it one of the top-selling 2600 titles ever, 3.5 million units went unsold. The disappointing sales of E.T., along with the general crash of the video game market in 1983, contributed to huge losses for Atari and the company being sold in 1984.
For years after, though, there were unconfirmed rumors that in September, 1983 Atari had buried truckloads full of game cartridges and equipment, including many E.T. cartridges, in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The rumor was finally confirmed in April 2014 when the landfill was excavated and the E.T. cartridges, along other unsold Atari inventory, saw the light of day for the first time in 30 years.