June 2, 2009

Tetris: Still Popular After 25 Years

Tetris, the ever-popular puzzle game, is celebrating its 25th year as developers eye its future in a plethora of new devices.

In the 1980s, Alexey Pajitnov, a mathematician at the Moscow Academy of Science, began developing the game due to his fascination with solving puzzles. By June 1984, Pajitnov had completed the first playable computer code for Tetris.

"For me, it was just a moment ago," said Pajitnov. "I was very fascinated with all kinds of puzzles, brain teasers. Mainly, it was just a diversion from the main work."

He said Tetris was derived from his interest in a particular puzzle game that consisted of a box made of five plastic pieces that could be put together in many ways.

"It was really hard," Pajitnov said. "I was in love with this puzzle for a number of years. I was just fascinated by how to manipulate the pieces on the screen."

Pajitnov developed Tetris, which challenges users to rotate various falling shapes in order to put them into rows without gaps.

Blue Planet Software chief executive Henk Rogers was first introduced to Tetris at a major Consumer Electronics Show in 1988.

"My job was to find many games, but I kept coming back to Tetris," Rogers said. "I realized I was hooked on it. It totally mesmerized me."

Early in 1989, he and Minoru Arakawa of Nintendo of America went to Moscow to license the rights to the videogame.

Nintendo saw the game as a natural for its Game Boy handheld gaming devices.

"At that time, Russia was a little behind," Arakawa said of the negotiation process with Russia. "We brought computers, printers and lawyers with us so we could type the draft, change it and have a final copy to sign. It took a few days."

Rogers and Pajitnov on Tuesday launched the 25th anniversary celebration at a premier E3 videogame industry gathering in Los Angeles.

"It's awesome when you look at the industry and everyone spending millions on graphics and music and more and here we are with Tetris just kicking ass," Rogers said. "It is an enviable position."

"Tetris is so popular because it transcends culture," Rogers said. "There is no violence, no ideology; the player creates order out of chaos."

Even after 25 years, Tetris is eyeing new potential platforms in smartphones.

"The challenge for us is just continuing to drive growth in the franchise," Adam Sussman, Vice President of Worldwide Publishing for Electronic Arts' EA Mobile division, told Reuters.

"Our hope is that as the business evolves to the smartphone, and moves to Apps stores, people will be able to find Tetris and buy it, and we will see a bigger audience consuming it."


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