Tetris: A Product Of Communist Russia

I have to admit when Tetris first came on the scene for my family it was on my Nintendo Gameboy. I wasn't a big fan of the game but, my Dad loved it. He would steal off with my Gameboy for hours addicted to these little falling stacking blocks looking for his next high score. I was content with Super Mario Bros. and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Arcade Game for my NES console. Recently I purchased Tetris Party Wii Ware from the Online Wii Shop for my Nintendo Wii. I've become addicted to the game. I feel like my Father... not a bad thing at all. : )

Regardless, yesterday on my TiVo I noticed a little link on my Nav screen that asked "Who Stole Tetris?" It turns out to be a documentary on the origins of Tetris and how it came to be the monster game we know today. Turns out the rise in popularity from this little game had much to do Russian Communism.

Tetris was developed by Alexi Pajitnov. He can't sell the game because it's communist Russia so he began giving it away to his friends. They gave it away to their friends and so on and so on. The game spread so far that all kinds of people began creating their own versions of the game and selling a few copies here and there for a couple of bucks. Then this guy Robert Stein, owner of Andromeda Software, comes along at a trade show sees the game in action and rather than go through all the Iron Curtain Red Tape to purchase the software he simply steals it.

Stein then begins to sell copies in the States and people are buying it because they think he actually purchased the rights to the game. So he makes a big sale to Robert Maxwell's gaming company. Robert Maxwell was a major player in the media scene during this time. Soon everyone is selling their own fake rights for the game. Before the rights were every official purchased Tetris had already become the best selling game in the USA and in the UK. So the Russians figure this out and create a company to manage the rights to Tetris.

So suddenly everyone is trying to purchase the rights for Tetris. Nintendo met up with the Russian officials pull out a game cartridge of the game and the Russians were upset because they hadn't authorized any type of production like this. So Nintendo pulls out a check and writes it for the cost of what they had sold a few of the games for and the rights to Tetris. The Russian government immediately sold Nintendo the rights to Tetris.

The Russians then locked Stein into a contract where he could only receive rights for the game from a computer. Now there was some dispute over what a computer could be so the Russians in the last moment through in a clause to the contract stating that a computer was anything with a monitor and a keyboard. So at this point in the game the only things Stein can make any money off are PC rights; no NES no Gameboy, nothing but a PC. Stinks for him right? But, I guess he got what was coming to him.

The sad part of this is that the original developer Alexi Pajintov never received any payment for the game. This was due to the communist culture of Russia at the time.

Tetris however is truly a classic game. It ranks up there with Solitaire and the like and I have a feeling it will be around for a long long time.


  1. Wow, that was interesting. I never knew all of that. It is one of my favorite games as well...

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hey we should start a foundation called the Alexi Pajintov foundation and raise money to pay him back!

  3. interesting! when it came out for the Gameboy I always wondered the Russian background. very interesting.

  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.