It’s been an urban legend for decades: That in 1983, game company Atari buried thousands, if not millions, of its not-well-received, unsold “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” game cartridges in Alamogordo, N.M.
Over the weekend, an excavation crew found out that the urban legend appears to be true.
The crew, being filmed for a documentary that will air later this year on the Xbox platform, unearthed those not-well-received “E.T.” cartridges, along with what looks to be other games as well, including Space Invaders, Asteroids and Centipede, Microsoft said. (Here’s an Associated Press story from the site of the dig.)
The dig came about after production company Fuel Entertainment acquired the exclusive rights to excavate the landfill, with the help of local Alamogordo garbage contractor Joe Lewandowski. Fuel Entertainment brought the idea to Xbox Entertainment Studios, Microsoft’s 2-year-old studio that’s working on developing original TV-show and interactive content for the Xbox platform.
The dig will be part of a documentary with the working title of “Atari: Game Over” that Microsoft is targeting for a late summer or fall release. It will be the first of a series of six tech-focused documentaries.
The series is part of a slate of shows that Microsoft is working on and is presenting today before advertisers and marketers.
These shows — which the company is referring to collectively as “Xbox Originals” — represent Microsoft’s latest effort at producing TV show-type content and marks its first foray into producing a whole slate of what it calls “premium” shows for the Xbox platform.
But even as the first of the shows are set to air in June, company executives are still trying to figure out a slew of questions, including: What will work for its core audience, who its larger audience might be, what interactive features make sense for each program, and what its overall business model will be.
Here’s my story running in today’s Seattle Times, taking a look at Microsoft’s latest effort to get into original TV programming.