Tetris video game marks 25th anniversary today


POSTED: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Never mind having to learn to play Tetris. Future versions of the video game will learn you.

Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov and Henk Rogers, the now Hawaii-based entrepreneur, who co-own global rights to the game, will announce its 25th-anniversary celebration today.

Chances are you, your children or grandchildren have played Tetris.

The great likelihood is that much of that game play occurred whilst housework, homework or sleep beckoned. The game can be that compelling and addicting.

On-screen pieces, called Tetriminos, descend from the top of the screen and are fitted together by the player with the aim of filling each square in each line to clear the screen, line by line or up to four lines at once, called a Tetris.

“;We're working on versions of Tetris that will make it possible to have 'international' games similar to the Olympics, or the World Cup,”; Rogers said in a statement prepared for release today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Future versions of Tetris will “;align themselves to the user”; and will “;learn their partner and adjust to give maximum game play satisfaction.”;

The current, colorful whiz-bang versions of Tetris are a world away from their text-based progenitor.

Rogers might be best known as a businessman, but he was a UH-educated game developer.

In 1983 he published Black Onyx, which went on to become the No. 1 game in Japan in 1984, he said.

Tetris play initially required a personal computer—or leaving the house with a bunch of quarters to feed into a Sega-designed arcade machine.

In 1989 Rogers and Japan-based Nintendo Co. obtained a license for Tetris from ELORG, the former Soviet Ministry of Software and Hardware Export—and it was formatted for a cartridge used in a Nintendo Game Boy.

It debuted later that year in North America—bundled for sale with the hand-held gaming device.

All these years later, the company declined to divulge terms of the agreement, except to say “;I think we agreed on the royalty payment,”; said Minoru Arakawa, then-president of Nintendo of America.

The Game Boy version of Tetris remains his favorite, he said. “;The (research and development) department in Japan said they really need this new game called Tetris. ... I wasn't sure that there was a better game than Super Mario or Zelda, but those guys were right,”; Arakawa said.

They knew it was a great game, but none knew it would last this long.

More than 125 million Tetris products have been sold that can be played on more than 30 platforms in 50 countries in 50 languages. Tetris is the top game for mobile devices, with 11 percent of the market, Arakawa said. “;The second one has 3 or 4 percent.”;

Rogers and Arakawa are partners in Honolulu-based Tetris Online Inc., which launched Tetris Friends Online in March, the first official Web-based Tetris site at which play is free.

“;Currently we have over 2 million unique visitors each month, and it's continuing to grow,”; said Casey Pelkey, vice president of marketing.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).