Finding Lost Treasure, the Gaming Kind


The Atari 2600 wooden finish edition.

You use the Xbox and Play-station for most of your gaming, but do you ever think of the consoles that started it all? The Atari consoles? Probably the most influential video game consoles of the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s. Everyone knew about it and most likely had one, but eventually it faded away and was buried in the past. But, have you heard of the buried treasure of Atari? The formerly mythical buried remains of Atari games and consoles?

At first, I couldn’t believe that there were 10-20 semi trucks worth of Atari products just left to disintegrate in some distant landfill. However, upon more research I discovered that this treasure trove of games and gear was a reality. This article will tell you what I found.

Atari dumped a lot of their gaming supplies because they were supposedly switching focus from their 2600 console to their 5200 console. However, a former Atari employee stated that they were actually getting rid of returns and inoperable products. Whatever the reason, millions of games, consoles, and accessories were thrown away and left to be destroyed.

The video game crash of 1983 was a recession (or economic activity slowdown) of video games in the 1980’s. It affected many different video game makers and sellers because they were no longer making lots of money. It was caused by the flooding of the console market and competition from personal/home computers. The flooding of other consoles meant that not as many people were buying a specific brand of console, so no individual game or console sellers were getting a lot of buyers. The personal/home computers were taking the place of the gaming consoles and caused sales of computers to rise while sales of video game consoles fell. This was the major reason why Atari got rid of their gaming supplies.

At its peak the Atari was selling over 10 million Atari 2600 consoles a year and were selling several millions of games, but soon after Atari became the most prominent game console producer of the time (in the U.S.), then the video game crash of 1983 struck. It caused the Atari company to lose up to $10,000 a day. They also had launched a game called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that was an extremely bad game (many people agree that both graphics and game-play were not adequate) and made Atari lose a lot of their money. This money loss caused Atari to dump between 10 and 20 semi-trucks of game supplies into a New Mexican landfill.

Eventually, some kids in the town that housed the landfill discovered some of the buried games. They began to find games like E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Defender, and Berzerk. This brought the news companies to their small town, inquiring about this hidden treasure trove of Atari gear. News companies like The New York Times and UPI began to write stories on this large collection of Atari stuff.

The Atari-age was a great one, full of innovation, creation, and fun. However, the dumping of many consoles and cartridges into a landfill was a great loss, not just for many video game companies, but also for any gamer alike. Such a thing was caused by the video game crash of 1983 and hopefully an event like this won’t reoccur. Now that we know how it happened, maybe we can prevent the loss of history if we fall into the same pit.