News Column

City still deciding what to do with Atari Games

May 30, 2014

By Alex Quintana, Alamogordo Daily News, N.M.



May 30--City Commissioners decided to begin the process of distributing and selling the Atari games found April 26 at the old landfill west of town.

The games will be distributed to film companies, museums and the general public.

According to city documents, 1,377 games were found, among them were 171 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial titles, 190 Centipedes, 116 Defenders, 59 Missile Commands, 99 Warlords, 53 Asteroids and several other titles and Atari consoles.

"We have completed an inventory, there are over 60 game titles there and over 1,300 game came out," Joe Lewandowski, of Operation Consultants, told the commission on Tuesday.

Lewandowski presented the first draft of a disbursement plan to the commission and noted that more details have to be determine but wanted to move forward with giving games to museums, FUEL Industries and Lightbox, local and national museums, and the public.

He said he wanted all local vendors involved with the excavation to get paid before the two companies received their deposit and games back from the city.

"Just to dig that hole was over $50,000," Lewandowski said. "Engineering was over $12,000, landfill was $8,000 because none of that garbage can go back into the hole. It all had to be sent to Otero-Greentree (Regional Landfill). The hauling cost, three of the haulers, we used Nelson, Southwest and Greentree, that was over $10,000 in hauling. Mesa Verde over $20,000 of digging and the equipment."

He recommended the city give more than just the required 17 E.T. games to the companies since they spent over $50,000 for the dig.

In a distribution plan, Lewandowski recommended giving FUEL Industries and Light Box 52 games from 14 different games titles.

"I think that would be a good gesture," he said. "The publicity we are getting from this, Microsoft is the one funding this, it is not a small-time operation."

However, Lewandowski also requested the city give the two companies an even 100 games to use for publicity and to give to other people and officials with Microsoft.

He said the Atari documentary will premiere at Comic-Con in July.

Lewandowski said the value of the games is still unknown.

"What they are worth? I really don't know," he said. "I know people all over the place are asking for it, we read the blogs they are asking 'how can I get one?' We have had people make offers and try to get them from us. That will have to be determined in the near future."

Lewandowski recommended the city make five display boxes to give to museums.

Through informal contact that the Smithsonian Institution would like to have a set of items to display from the dig, he said.

Lewandowski said the New Mexico Museum of Space History, Tularosa Basin Historical Society and possibly the Plaza Museum, once it is open, would all like to have items to display plus two more displays for other museums.

"Those would be like floater boxes at museum requests," he said. "To do something like that you would loan those out and get it back."

Division Director at the New Mexico Museum of Space History, Chris Orwoll, suggested items be appraised and the city should look at how they will distribute the Atari items

Orwoll also said he was willing to offer the museum's help in curating display boxes and advising with how to treat the Atari artifacts.

He said those services would require a memorandum of understanding between the museum and the city, which the commission agreed to create.

"The museum obviously would like some small portion of this to put on display," Orwoll said. "In what is normally called in the museum industry 'popular culture.' In the Smithsonian's case, Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, is the curator for that, and they are interested."

In the disbursement plan, Lewandowski recommended the city keep a few items to give out as possible commemorative awards and the rest would be sold to the public with a letter of authenticity and a serial ID tag from the city.

He estimates the city can sell between 600 and 700 items to the public.

Lewandowski said the city can determine the best way to give Atari items to the public and museums then figure out the best way to distribute the items at a later time but wanted to begin the process.

"If we run out, there are 790,000 more in that hole out there now that we know where they are at," he said. "But they are worth more. The less there is -- that is why we didn't keep going."

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(c)2014 the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.)

Visit the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.) at www.alamogordonews.com

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Source: Alamogordo Daily News (NM)


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