Tetris Has A Weird, Complicated History You Never Knew About

Tetris Has A Weird, Complicated History You Never Knew About

Video game designer Henk Rogers had a problem. He had already worked with Nintendo to license and produce the Game Boy cartridge for Tetris, and was sitting on a couple hundred thousand completed cartridges ready to go to market. However, he didn't technically have the right to license it. This wound up leading to a back-alley handshake deal with the Russian government that sounds like something out of an '80s Cold War spy movie.



"The director of ELORG [the Soviet software regulation agency], a Mr. Belikov, told me they had never given the rights to anyone," Rogers recalled. "I was in deep kimchi, because I had 200,000 cartridges at $10 a piece being manufactured in Japan, and I had put up all my in-laws property as collateral." That probably led to some awkward holiday dinners.


While in Moscow to acquire the rights, Rogers was eventually able to arrange a meeting with ELORG through his interpreter, although he technically wasn't supposed to be doing business on a tourist visa. That meeting involved being grilled by ELORG and the KGB, as well as local software moguls, and even creator Alexey Pajitnov himself. The sort of chutzpah it took to take on that gauntlet must have made an impression, because when Pajitnov emigrated to the U.S. and reacquired rights to the game, he actually formed The Tetris Company with Rogers.



The Tetris Company spends most of their time shutting down unlicensed Tetris clones on various platforms, because after being grilled by the KGB, you wanna make sure anyone else making a Tetris-like game earns the right to.


















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Tetris Has A Weird, Complicated History You Never Knew About