Tetris

Published by: Tengen
Developed by: Tengen
Genre: Puzzle
Released: 1989

Tetris (NES)

Tetris: The Soviet Mind Game is the NES version of the popular Russian puzzle game which was designed by Soviet Academy of Sciences researcher Alexey Pajitnov alongside Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov in 1984.  

This NES version of the game was released for the NES by unlicensed publisher Tengen. This version was designed and developed by Ed Logg, Kelly Turner, and Norm Avellar. The game was originally designed in black and white and at the request of management at Tengen the developers added color to the title. The game was built from scratch using no original source material or code, because of this Tengen believe the game is better tuned than the later Nintendo released version. 

Game play revolves around rotating and aligning tetrominoe shapes which drop from the top of the screen. There are 7 different block shapes. The player must arrange the shapes in a way that there are no gaps in a line and that line would be removed from the board. The goal was to continue the game for as long as possible without letting the pile of shapes reach the top of the screen. The speed at which the blocks fell increased as the player removed more and more lines from the board. 

The game could be played by a single player or by two players at the same time competing to last the longest.

Tetris for the NES has a complex history surrounding licensing which led to two versions being released on the NES. Mirrorsoft president Robert Stein secured the rights to license the title, which were in turn granted to Spectrum HoloByte. Ed Logg convinced Atari to license the title and Atari Games produced an arcade version of Tetris. Under their Tengen brand name they developed this title for the NES. Tengen along with Spectrum HoloByte later licensed the rights to Henk Rogers on behalf of Nintendo to distribute Tetris in Japan, and Rogers traveled to Moscow to secure permission to distribute Tetris with the Game Boy. Nintendo approached Spectrum HoloByte on the prospects of developing a version of Tetris for the Game Boy, and a representative of Mirrorsoft, Kevin Maxwell, traveled to Russia to secure permission on their behalf. However, because Stein had secured the rights from Pajitnov directly and not from the Russian authorities, the USSR's Ministry of Software and Hardware Export stated that the console rights to Tetris had been licensed to nobody, and that Atari Games had only been licensed the rights to produce arcade games with the property. They sent a fax to Maxwell in England with 48 hours to respond; Maxwell however was still in Russia at the time and received the fax late, resulting in licensing being distributed to Nintendo. In April 1989, Tengen, who had previously filed an anti-trust suit against Nintendo, sued Nintendo again claiming rights to distribute Tetris on the NES, and Nintendo counter-sued citing infringement of trademark.

In June 1989, a month after the release of Tengen's Tetris, a U.S. District Court Judge issued an injunction barring Tengen from further distributing the game, and further ordered all existing copies of the game be destroyed. As a result, 268,000 Tetris cartridges were recalled and destroyed. Roughly 100,000 copies of the game had been sold, and it has since become a collector's item. 

Aside from the other version of the game released Tetris has been followed with many Tetris titles, the next being Tetris 2 for the NES.

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