Tetris is a video puzzle game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in June 1985. Since its release it has gone on to become a jewel of the video game industry with appearances upon nearly every console since its release.
Although the game has had many successful spinoffs such as the SNES classic ' Tetris Attack', the original Tetris concept has barely changed after 20 years, with only minor improvements and fine tweaks being made to its gameplay and design. The franchise continues to make healthy sales despite its age. 23 years since its debut, its clear that the Tetris franchise is here to stay.
Tetris originated from a series of puzzles called Pentomino, where the goal was to fill an 8x8 area with the help of various shapes that consist of five square blocks, without leaving any spaces. It was a three player game where players would take turns to place the various shapes, and the person to place the last piece would win. Alexey Pajitnov took this simple board game, and made two key changes. First, he changed the pentominoes to tetraminos by reducing the amount of squares of each block to four, and secondly, he added the all important time element that makes Tetris so popular.
In June 1985, Tetris was created by Pajitnov on an Elektronika 60 and soon after an improved MS-DOS version, with partner Dmitry Pavlovsky ,and then ported to the IBM PC by Vadim Gerasimov. Tetris started to spread all over Moscow, it was then brought to Hungary, where Hungarian programmers ported Tetris to Apple II and Commodore 64. This original Elektronika 60 version is available to download courtesy of Gerasimov here.
The game made a huge impact in Europe for a game from such small beginnings, and many large companies were eager for Pajitnov to sell them the rights for the tetris game distribution. Eventually Mirrorsoft UK and Spectrum Holobyte earned the rights to creating computer versions of Tetris. It did not take long for the rest of world to catch on, and it became the best-selling computer game in England and USA in 1988.
At first Pajitnov did not earn a dime from his creation; USSR copyright law meant that all the profit went to the government of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc countries. He only started profiting from his creation in 1996 when he and Henk Rogers formed The Tetris Company.
Pajitnov has since gone on to create the popular puzzle game franchise Hexic, which once came free with every Xbox 360 Premium package. He has since left Microsoft in 2005, and been rumored to be working with Wildsnake Software.