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Here is an article released this week from characterarcade written by JW Healy:

"The day I saw Tetris for the first time is indelibly etched in my brain. I was having lunch with my friend Jackye and she was over-the-moon excited about this new device she had just purchased. It was a portable video game - one you could hold in your hand! That was cool enough but then she told me she bought the Game Boy for one reason only: to play this insanely addictive game called Tetris. We sat side-by-side at the restaurant, our heads pushed together as we leaned in to see the Game Boy screen. I looked on in amazement as Jackye pushed the little buttons that manipulated the sets of four-square boxes as they fell down from the top of the screen.

That was 1989 and in the 21 years since, the game has reached phenomenal popularity and has experienced unbelievable success. For example, when the Nintendo DS version was released, it sold an immediate 2 million copies. When the Apple iPod version was released, it instantly became the #1 most downloaded game. Earlier this year, Tetris reached another milestone when it logged 100 million paid mobile phone downloads (it has been available on the mobile market for less than 10 years). And, according to The Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, Tetris is the industry's most ported game - it is available on more than 55 different platforms, including an in-flight version played on over 50 airlines.

Where did this game originate? Why is it so popular?

Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov, who is also a gaming enthusiast, developed the game while working at the Academy of Science of the USSR in 1984, on an old Elektronika 60, a Russian PDP clone. "I was a Sirius programmer working on all kinds of artificial intelligence," Alexey says. "I loved all kinds of riddles and puzzles, mathematical diversions." Once he got hold of the desktop computer, "I started to put all my riddles and puzzles and board games...into the computer," he explains. And it was during these sessions that the idea of Tetris was born.

The name of the game is derived from Greek ("Tetra," meaning "of four" or "having four"). In the game, blocks of four, called "Tetriminos," appear from the top of the screen and move down to the bottom. The Tetriminos appear in a variety of shapes but they are always made up of four blocks. The object of the game is to clear horizontal lines before the vertical space on the screen is filled up while scoring as many points as you can and moving through as many levels as possible. When Alexey couldn't stop playing his own creation, he knew he hit on something special.

After Alexey ported the game to the PC platform, versions began popping up on PCs all over the world. The game's license was muddled under Russia's lack of trade with outside nations and by other licensing issues, but by 1988, Henk Rogers, a video game designer and publisher, discovered the game at a trade show and his company, Blue Planet Software, acquired the rights to it. He went to Japan and approached Nintendo about loading the game onto the company's soon-to-be-released Game Boy. At first, Nintendo's president Mr. Arakawa was more interested in bundling the Game Boy with the company's own Mario games. But, Rogers had a more convincing argument. He said that Game Boy bundled with Mario would likely be a hit with little boys but the combination of Game Boy and Tetris would most definitely be a hit with everybody. Rogers managed to convince Mr. Arakawa that he was right. As Rogers says, "Tetris is the ultimate casual game in that you can watch somebody play and you'll know how to play it immediately." Adds Adam Sussman of EA Mobile, "It is very easy to pick up and play but incredibly difficult to master." This is what keeps people playing.

As Mr. Arakawa would soon learn, Rogers' instincts were right on the money: When the handheld system was bundled with Tetris, the two became a worldwide phenomenon. Tetris drove the sales of the Game Boy to record numbers, with over 35 million copies of the game sold for the original Game Boy. It has since been released on almost every console platform and arcade system available.

Once the game crossed the mobile phone platform, its popularity soared to even bigger heights. Henk Rogers says, "Tetris is played by everybody, I mean every demographic, every culture, every age group so it fits very well with the mobile phone demographic because, guess what, everybody has a mobile phone. So it is kind of a marriage made in heaven." After it went mobile, downloads soared so high, Tetris is now the top-selling mobile game across any platform.

Tetris is now available in 50 countries and 50 languages. It has won numerous awards, including the Software Publisher's Association Excellence in Software Award (equivalent to the movie's Oscar). lists it as #2 on its list of Top 100 Games of all Time; the Nielsen Company ranked it as the #1 game on its "Top Ten Mobile Games of 2008;" Entertainment Weekly's 1000th issue named it the #1 best game of the past 25 years. Many iterations of the game have become available, including Tetris Party, Tetris POP and Tetris Gems. And, copycat versions of the game are too numerous to count. In addition to the various platforms and iterations, Tetris is now available in its own online community, The site is currently Beta testing an application that will bring together Tetris lovers and players for competitions and other social networking activities. Currently, the game playing portion of the site boasts that the game is played 1 million times a day!

To date, over 125 million Tetris products have been sold. Not bad for a simple but elegant game that originated on a PDP clone. It's downright phenomenal. And, still growing!"

Comment by m__ on April 10, 2010, 6:49 am
wow, gameboy was some peoples first time playing tetris. I was in high school when the gameboy came out. I never had a hand held device, I simply wasn't interested in one.

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