The Interesting History of Tetris

June 6 of the year 1984 brought about the greatest revolution in the field of game development. A software engineer from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Alexey Pajitnov, created the original Tetris.  

The Tetris game was an experiment given to Alexey Pajitnov to test the workability of a new computer. Therefore, he programmed his childhood’s basic puzzle game to evaluate the computer in a fun way.

The history of Tetris is fascinating because, similar to regular science experiments, the Tetris game was not intentional. However, it came out to be one of the most played classic 90’s video games.

The Soviet mind game Tetris succeeded after Nintendo ported the game to GameBoy and NES. The world alone is not a fan of the Tetris game, but its founder, Alexey Pajitnov, once confirmed that he became addicted to the game in designing its prototype. 

With the Cold War going on in the Union of Soviet Russia, developing a video game was not an easy job. The seamless design of the original Tetris contributed to transforming it into a worldwide phenomenon from a peculiar prototype.

Basic Architecture of Tetris

Basic Architecture of Tetris

There are geometric shapes in the game of Tetris called “tetrominoes,” which keep on falling onto the main playing field. The players have to place them in such a way that they create gapless columns and rows. 

Original Tetris was an inspiration from a classic wooden puzzle named pentomino, which consists of 12 different geometric shapes that have to be arranged in a wooden box by combining five squares.

Alexey Pajitnov modified it by replacing 12 pieces with 7 and 5 squares with four. Tetris is a blend of “tetra” and “tennis” because tetra means four, and tennis was his wife’s favorite sport.

Name and Fame

Alexey Pajitnov shared the game with his colleagues, and they also became addicted to it. The era was of floppy disks, and hence the game soon spread across Moscow. Later, the copy of the Tetris game entered Hungary when Pajitnov sent it to one of his co-workers. The game grasped the attention of Robert Stein at an exhibition at the Hungarian Institute of Technology. Stein was the owner of Andromeda Software Ltd.

The Proposal from Stein to Pajitnov:

Tetris fascinated Stein, and he traced Alexey Pajitnov. Pajitnov received a fax from Stein regarding securing the copyrights for Tetris. Stein showed interest in selling it as a computer game. Also, he was ready to pay Pajitnov enormously.

The misunderstanding

Pajitnov had a problem speaking and understanding English. Therefore, when Stein and Pajitnov established contact, he expressed Stein his pleasure regarding the project but did not say yes. However, Stein perceived his message as a green signal and initiated the game production without any further communication. 

Later, the game ended up in the hands of a Soviet agency named Elektronorgtechnica (Elorg). The agency first licensed Tetris to Stein, and Stein certified the game to the distributors among U.K (Mirrorsoft Ltd.) and U.S. (HoloByte). 

The Game Boy

Consoles were generating money immensely as compared to computer games. Tetris was only selling on computers at that instant. A Dutch businessman and a video game developer named Henk Rogers comprehended that Tetris could be the best fit for the Game Boy. Game Boy was a novel handheld system launched in Japan by Nintendo.

The twist with Copyrights: 

He convinced the founder of Nintendo in America to incorporate Tetris in each Game Boy. Minoru Arakawa was not comfortable doing this since Mario was a super hit in the ’90s. Still, Rogers made him realize that Mario suits kids only, yet Tetris caters to every age group.

The next step for Rogers was more difficult. He had to obtain permission afterward, and it was a whole new challenge. He published a new Tetris version in Japan and found out multiple companies claiming to own the rights to the most addictive classic 90’s video game. 

Henk Rogers then planned a trip to Moscow on a visit visa to find the authentic source of the game rights. He discovered the head and got to know about Elorg. He engaged an interpreter before making it to Elorg.

The interpreter sounded suspicious because the agency did not entertain any foreigner while Rogers was not supposed to speak to the Russians. He, however, breached the rules and went there. They interrogated Rogers for approximately two hours. The room had officials along with Alexey Pajintov. Pajitnov showed a liking for Rogers among these officials. Rogers realized that Pajitnov was the only guy who had sound knowledge about games. 

The Signing

After the week of this meeting with officials and Pajitnov and Rogers becoming friends, Rogers earned the signed agreement for Tetris as a console game on the Game Boy. The version on GameBoy traded 35 million pieces and became the most popular console game in history. Pajitnov, along with numerous people, marked this version as the best of all Tetris games.

Authority Issues

The game became a success, but Pajitnov was still struggling with earning any money from it. He was facing issues with several legal bindings under the same headings of source and ownership. He decided to grant the rights for ten years to the Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and did it.

A new battle now started between Atari and Nintendo regarding the home console Tetris rights. In late 1989, a judge supported Nintendo. Atari was devastated, which previously created thousands of copies of Tetris named “Tetris: The Soviet Mind Game,” which became useless. Nintendo used an altered approach and called it “From Russia with fun.”

After ten years, he regained the rights in 1995. The expiry of the contract opened privileges for Pajitnov, and he finally started earning money from the game. He also left Moscow in 1991.

Tetris Company came into being in 1996 by Rogers and Pajitnov. They both controlled licensing for Tetris and its sequels. After the conquest of the Soviet Union, Elorg converted into a private company and was no longer a part of Government-owned property. 

Tetris Company bought Elorg in 2005. The company set standards and trademarks for the shapes and names of every Tetris piece. These pieces are now known as “Tetriminos.”

Playing Mechanics

Tetris is now one of the most successful video games from the 90s because of its addictive nature. Players will have to rotate, move and drop the falling Tetriminos onto the playing field or a matrix by removing the horizontal streaks of blocks. 

Once the player clears the line, there comes a time to level up. Here, Tetriminos begin to fall faster, and the game becomes more interesting, and when the blocks fill up the playing field, the game is over.

Final Word

Tetris launched on over 65 platforms to date. It holds a world record of half a billion or more downloads on mobile devices. Pajitnov contributed to over 100 variants of Tetris himself. It is a high-grade game and got enormous fame because of its compatibility with various devices and models. Tetris is a mood-lightening game with no modern game theory strategies. Be it a kid or adult, and no one can ever claim that they have not enjoyed Tetris once in their life.