Atari Games Corporation was an arcade game manufacturer based in the United States. It began as Atari Incorporated’s coin-operated arcade game division and was spun off into its own company in 1984 when it was sold to Warner Communications. The company created and published arcade games as well as games for consumer gaming consoles such as the Commodore 16, Commodore 64, Game Boy, Nintendo Entertainment System, and others. Tetris, Road Runner, RoadBlasters, and Primal Rage were among the games created by Atari. But did you know there was a stash of Atari Games that was buried by the company in 1983?
A garbage collector and a punk archaeologist collaborated to locate the fabled pit where Atari dumped tons of unsold inventory following the 1983 video game crash. When they found 1980s artifacts, such as a Donny and Marie Osmond poster, they knew they were getting close to the Atari trove.
Where Did They Discover the Buried Atari Games?
In September 1983, Atari discovered that it had an excess of game cartridges that needed to be removed from its warehouse in El Paso, Texas. To keep people from scavenging the games, they decided to bury them in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
A solitary copy of 1982’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was in the haul. The obsolete and abandoned game was once reviled as the worst video game ever, but it sold for $1,535. (Source: American History)
How Much did they Sell the Buried Treasure?
They dug up 1,178 Atari 2600 game cartridges containing about 50 different classic titles such as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Breakout, Star Raiders, Pele’s Soccer, Centipede, Baseball, Asteroids, and Defender. Most were sold to raise funds for the city and his local nonprofit while keeping the rest for museums.
All 881 games were sold on eBay for a total of $107,930. Proceeds went to the city. Since the sale drew clients from as far as France, Brazil, Australia, and Singapore, about $26,000 was spent on shipping and other charges.
The City of Alamogordo will get $65,037 to help fund its police department, zoo, veteran’s memorial, and other projects. Joe Lewandowski the vice president of the Tularosa Basin Historical Society, will receive $16,529 for the museum. (Source: Arstechnica)
What were the Financial Difficulties Atari Games Corporation Faced that Caused Them to Bury Their Games?
Warner Communications purchased Atari Incorporated in 1976 for $28 million, and its net worth had grown to $2 billion by 1982. By this time, the company had captured about 80% of the video gaming market and was responsible for more than half of its parent company’s revenues, earning 65 to 70% of their operating profits.
By the fourth quarter of 1982, its growth for the following year was expected to be in the vicinity of 50%. However, on December 7, 1982, the company reported that its earnings had increased by only 10 to 15%, rather than the predicted figure of 20 to 30%. The next day, Warner Communications’ share price fell by one-third, and Warner’s profits fell by 56% for the quarter. (Source: NY Times)