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Tetris: The Soviet Mind Game

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TETЯIS: The Soviet Mind Game is a notable version of Tetris, released by Tengen, that was produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was only on the shelf for four weeks before Nintendo became the official publisher for the game.


Development and history

File:TETЯIS The Soviet Mind Game.png

In 1984, Soviet Academy of Sciences researcher Alexey Pajitnov alongside Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov developed Tetris out of a desire to create a two-player puzzle game,[1] and the game spread commercially amongst computers. Mirrorsoft president Robert Stein approached Pajitnov with an offer to distribute Tetris worldwide, and secured the rights to license the title, which were in turn granted to Spectrum HoloByte.[2] After seeing the game run on an Atari ST, programmer Ed Logg petitioned Atari Games to license it, and approached Stein.[3] With the rights secured, Atari Games produced an arcade version of Tetris,[4] and under their Tengen brand name began development to port the title to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in May 1989.[5][6]

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. Around this same time, 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.[2] However, because Stein had secured the rights from Pajitnov directly and not from the Russian authorities,[2] 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.[7] 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.[2] 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.[2][8] 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.[6] As a result, 268,000 Tetris cartridges were recalled and destroyed.[5]

In an interview, Ed Logg notes that the Tengen version of Tetris was built completely from scratch, using no source code or material from the original game. After presenting the title at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Tengen president Randy Browleit requested improvements in the game. Originally portrayed solely in black and white, Browleit requested that the pieces be portrayed in color, and Logg altered the game accordingly prior to the next Consumer Electronics Show. When asked which version of Tetris he liked the most, Logg stated the Nintendo version of Tetris for the NES "wasn't tuned right", citing a lack of the use of logarithmic tuning over doubling the game's speed.[3]


By the time of court order demanding Tengen cease distribution of the game and destroy all remaining copies, roughly 100,000 copies of the game had been sold,[8] and has since become a collector's item.[9] The game has been noted as superior to Nintendo's own release for the NES,[10] with noting its removal as a loss for players, citing its gameplay and two-player mode.[11] However in another article, they noted that were it not for the hype surrounding the game during the lawsuit, Tengen's Tetris would have more than likely been forgotten.[12] GamesRadar stated similar, praising Tengen's version and noting that the Game Boy Tetris version was superior to Nintendo's licensed NES version as well.[13]


  1. Gerasimov, Vadim. Original Tetris: Story and Download. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 DeMaria, Rusel; Johnny L. Wilson (2003). High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Video Games (2 ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0072231726. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gifford, Kevin. Ed Logg interview. AtariHQ. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  4. Harris, John. Game Design Essentials: 20 Atari Games. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2009-06-21.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tetris [Tengen]. Allgame. All Media Group. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Nintendo Wins Battle Over Soviet Video Game". San Jose Mercury News: p. 2C. 1989-06-22. 
  7. Scalzo, John (2009-06-06). Tetris is 25: A Look Back at the Greatest Game Ever. Gaming Target. UGO Networks. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Nintendo sues Atari Games over rights to Tetris". New Straits Times Malaysia: p. 11. 1989-06-01. 
  9. Viets, Elaine (1992-07-02). "Collectibles May Lurk In Basement Clutter". Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 3E. 
  10. Harris, John (2008-05-30). Game Design Essentials: 20 Atari Games. GamaSutra. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  11. The Essential 50 Part 23 - Tetris. UGO Networks. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  12. Edwards, Benj (2007-06-19). Platform Agnostics: The Most Whored-Out Games. UGO Networks. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
  13. Patterson, Shane. The Top 7...Best ports on inferior systems. GamesRadar. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.

External links

Template:Tetrisvi:Tetяis: The Soviet Mind Game

Facts about "Tetris: The Soviet Mind Game"RDF feed
ContentTypeVideo Game +
DesignerKelly Turner + and Norm Avellar +
DisplayNameTetris: The Soviet Mind Game +
GameCatVideo Game +
NameTetris: The Soviet Mind Game +
NamePageTetris: The Soviet Mind Game +
NamesTetris: The Soviet Mind Game +
PageNameTetris: The Soviet Mind Game +
PageTypeVideo Games + and Games +
StatusReleased +

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