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With the recent announcement that Tetris is now the best selling mobile game of all time with over 100 million paid downloads in 5 years, Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov celebrates in EA Mobile's Montreal office.

(image courtesy of Alexis Grison, The Gazette)

"EA Mobile, whose largest offices are in Montreal, holds the licence to make Tetris for handsets. "It's a Russian invention, but a Montreal export," said André Lauzon, executive producer at EA Mobile, a unit of the video game giant Electronic Arts.

Tetris is widely considered the king of casual games: The player must arrange differently shaped blocks so they fill an entire line. Once a line is completed, it vanishes.

"It's easy to play, easy to pick up, easy to put down," said David Riley, a video game industry analyst at NPD Group. "It never gets old."

The game has become such a cultural fixture, it has spawned countless variations and derivative works. An online game called Sextris, for instance, replaces the blocks with nude men and women in varied positions. The goal is to place them in romantically favourable arrangements.

And the background music, an old Russian folk tune, has become so inextricable from the game that anyone wishing to use it for a video game must get the owner's approval.

"They have to get our permission even though we don't own the copyright," said Henk Rogers, president and CEO of Blue Planet Software, the company that owns the Tetris intellectual property. "It's a funny situation to be in."

Despite its massive success, Pajitnov wasn't able to profit from his creation until fairly recently. Anything made in the Soviet Union belonged to the government; the rights for Tetris were no exception.

"The question of property was a grey area at that time," Pajitnov said.

Hoping to avoid a fight and possibly lose his creation, Pajitnov granted the rights to the government and his research centre for 10 years. "I missed the very juicy years," he said, "but now I'm happy."

Pajitnov had the help of Rogers, a Dutch game designer living in Japan who saw Tetris at a trade show and kept coming back to play it.

"If I was hooked, I knew others would be," he said.

Rogers struck a rights-sharing deal with the Soviets so he could sell the game worldwide. After the Soviet Union fell, the ministry that held the rights was privatized; Rogers bought the rights in 2004.

Now the men hope Tetris becomes an athletic event.

"We want to be on ESPN and the Olympics," Rogers said. "We're planning a Tetris world cup to see who's the best player out there.""

For the full article, click here: tory.html
Comment by jujube on January 25, 2010, 2:30 pm
i wonder if Mr. Pajitnov is getting tired of talking about the history of tetris. if i were him i would start making stuff up just for fun.
Comment by EnFuego on January 25, 2010, 12:49 am
"Sextris" is a must-add when talking about tetris spin-offs... (sarcasm)
Comment by m__ on January 24, 2010, 6:52 pm
bink in the world cup! i just wish TGM wasn't the neglected step child of TTC.
Comment by TomatoKirby on January 24, 2010, 11:35 am
Nice article
Comment by Beastin_Shen on January 24, 2010, 11:27 am
Comment by azn_papirus on January 23, 2010, 6:26 pm
correction: "easy to play, easy to pick up, HARD to put down"
Comment by Boingloing on January 22, 2010, 9:58 pm
I liked the end.

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