Tetris – a Russian Game Conquers the World

Tetris PartsTetris is one of the best-selling electronic games worldwide. There exits Tetris for PCs, MACs, PlayStations, Game Boy, cell phones and also for the iPod. The secret of success is simple: The game is easy and fun to play. Men and women, kids and adults spend hours arranging the falling blocks.

Tetris (Russian: Тетрис) was created in Russia in 1985. The idea occurred to a Russian computer specialist Alexey Pajitnov (russ.: Алексей Пажитнов) who was fascinated by puzzles and computers. One of his favorite puzzles was Pentamino. The goal was to fill the game field with 12 five-square blocks. Pajitnov tried turning it in a computer game. The idea wasn’t easy to implement on the primitive Russian PC Electronica 60, though. The game started functioning only after Pajitnov switched to four-square blocks. So he called the new game Tetris, having derived the name form the ancient Greek word τετράς meaning four.

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Despite the simple graphics, the game was addictive from the moment of its appearance. Pajitnovs workmates were the first to fall victim to Tetris. The color version of the puzzle appeared in summer 1985. A 16-year-old pupil Vadim Gerasimov (russ. Вадим Герасимов) ported Tetris to the IBM PC. The game was copied to floppy discs and handed over to friends and colleagues. In a little while the whole Moscow and soon also the entire Eastern Bloc were busy playing Tetris.
Living in Soviet Russia, Pajitnov didn’t think of securing the rights, considering Tetris as a product and making money out of it.

Robert Stein, president of the British software house Andromeda, noticed Tetris during his trip to Budapest in 1986 and went to
Moscow to license the game. But the Russians were hardly interested in negotiating with him. Stein still got in touch with the company Mirrowsoft that was willing to bring Tetris to market in the UK and the USA.

The time for launching the game was just perfect. Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Russia and started making headlines in the world’s press. As a result, the West showed growing interest in Russia and Russian products. Suddenly the Russians denied having ever sold the rights on Tetris but finally gave the go-ahead. Tetris has become a best-selling computer game.

It is not quite clear who sold what rights to whom. But as Tetris appeared on the Game Boy, nobody could stop the Russian game from breaking sales records all over the world.

The inventor Alexey Pajitnov had no share in the profits. But he decided to concentrate on developing computer games and set up a company AnimaTek. In 1991 Pajitnov and his family emigrated to Seattle in the USA. But Pajitnov was an engineer and not a businessman. His company flopped, and in 1996 the creator of Tetris was hired by Microsoft where he designed the popular puzzle Pandora’s Box.

Alexey Pajitnov is a nice and humble guy. He is happy to have found his mission which is designing computer games. In an interview he said he was not bothered by the fact that he might have become a rich man under other circumstances.

With Tetris a Russian computer specialist created an incredibly successful game that keeps fascinating people all over the world since more than 20 years.