Never forget; nineteen eighty-three.
It was the year when two video games were blamed for sending the entire home console industry into meltdown.
America announced a recession.
They called it the great video game crash.
The Japanese gave it a more stylish twist.
They called it . . . Atari Shock.
Over-confident in the arcade success of Pac-Man, twelve million cartridges had been manufactured for the Atari 2600, despite having only sold ten million consoles.
It didn’t port well.
It didn’t play well.
The fans began queuing up for refunds.
Thirty million dollars were paid for the rights to E.T. Rushed out in five weeks to accompany the Spielberg film.
It was openly branded as the worst video game ever.
Five new consoles were launched the following year, and despite Pac-Man and E.T. taking the fall, the market had become flooded with bad titles that no one enjoyed playing. The second-generation market peaked, overextended, and plummeted in the years to follow.
Atari made a loss of five hundred million dollars in a single financial year.
In a landfill site near Alamogordo, New Mexico, millions of unsold cartridges were made to disappear in the dust overnight.
When news of the desert dumping ground hit the local papers, the kids arrived in their hundreds to resurrect the cartridges, and they found way more than just E.T. and Pac-Man.
The plastic graveyard hid a catalogue of buried treasures; Centipede, Warlords, Defender, Space Invaders, Berzerk; all were buried in the dry desert dirt.
What followed was digital grave robbery on a massive scale.
It was an 8-bit appreciation flash mob, a spark that ignited the digital piracy flame, and inspired the attitude that the fun stuff should be free.
The Alamogordo authorities declared the site a biohazard, at risk of unearthing mercury covered pigs or dislodging a vat of nuclear waste from this former desert dumping ground.
It was sealed-off under concrete.
The cartridge tomb became urban legend.
Thirty years later, the site was excavated, and the games began appearing on eBay.
Lars Nilsson paid a grand for his copy of E.T. and didn’t really understand why he was compelled to do so.
Physically holding a piece of gaming history, despite it being just a rectangle of time-worn plastic, touched him to the very core of his soul.