The most famous video game in history has turned 30 today. Tetris! It’s also the best-selling video game ever with global lifetime sales, apparently, well over the 500 million mark. The next best selling game is Wii Sports, which has about 60 million sales. Kind of says a lot, donut it?
Not that Tetris’ World Domination is a bad thing. It’s an excellent thing – it’s a product which unites all ages, genders (ALL genders, yes!), cultures (even the belligerent English!), and could even make a psychopath realise the thing has an inherent brilliance. Indeed, the power of Tetris (which today is enjoying global celebrations to mark the event) has been felt in more ways than… two.
Many of us over 25 will associate it with Nintendo and the Game Boy. Plus, the music. You know it.
As catchy as a bout of bubonic plague and just as addictively itchy. Ah, memories. Tetris is no longer solely associated with Nintendo, as its amiable creator, Alexey Pajitnov, formed The Tetris Company in 1996 and finally got hold of the official rights for his creation (he didn’t earn a penny from it for 12 years!). Want to know more, read on, Macduff!
In the late ’80s Pajitnov’s creation, inadvertently, caused mayhem when international businesses fought for official rights.
As several major brands battled it out for the definitive contract signature, events took a severe turn towards the Dark Side and it all nearly caused an international incident.
Business lunatic Robert Maxwell, using his ties with the Soviet era Russian government, attempted to effectively blackmail and threaten his way to the rights.
This backfired, and Nintendo came through to claim the glory! It was glory, too, as the 1989 Game Boy edition shifted well over 30 million copies, addicting a generation with its bleeps, bloops, and the horrifying moment when the screen’s filling up and you’re waiting for that really long vertical one to save the day.
The tumultuous history of Tetris can be seen in the BBC’s insightful 2004 documentary. We’re pleased it all worked out well, frankly, as the game could well have fallen into the wrong hands.
It’s, kind of, like a Hollywood movie with all the good guys coming through at the end with massive great big beaming smiles.
Much of the story is also documented in a riveting fashion in David Sheff’s excellent book Game Over. And that includes exclusive interviews with those stuck in the strange situation.
So, all hail Alexey Pajitnov and his amazing creation, and happy 30th birthday Tetris! Here’s to another 30 years and beyond.