This year is undoubtedly notable for one of the best-known franchises in gaming, as Tetris celebrates its 30th Anniversary. It was created by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union in 1984, and in one of the smartest video game business deals ever made Henk Rogers travelled to Russia to secure publication and licensing rights for distribution outside of Russia. The rest is history, with the license deal for Nintendo to bring it to the Game Boy being a defining moment in the company's historical dominance of the portable gaming market.
Speaking to VentureBeat at a celebration event in Philadelphia, Rogers highlighted some of the staggering sales of the franchise; he gave figures of "425 million total paid mobile downloads... 35 million on the original Game Boy... Boxed products, I think altogether we sold something like 70 million." That figure doesn't even include free-to-play mobile versions, though Rogers admits that it's just as well that his daughter has taken his place in the business, as he's not a fan the model.
I have a hard time with the freemium model. I’m sort of old-school that way. You could spend a couple of million dollars and build a great product in the old days, and then you’d know that a certain number of them would be sold. Nowadays, you have to build the game and then hope you can keep nickel-and-dime-ing people afterward. You have to interrupt the experience asking for money, and I think it takes away from the game.
Any conversation around Tetris naturally brings the subject to Nintendo, as despite the franchise perhaps being best-known on Game Boy it's had multiple entries skipping the Kyoto company's hardware, with Ubisoft working on a new entry for PS4 and Xbox One, but not Wii U — Puyo Puyo Tetris (published by Sega) is a crossover, meanwhile, coming to 3DS and Wii U in Japan. Rogers considered Nintendo's current status, before explaining that he hopes to see the Tetris brand continue on any system with the applicable control inputs.
It’s funny, I was in Japan recently and I met Mr. Miyamoto. I hate to say it, though, but I didn’t really know what the situation with Nintendo was like. I just wanted to see Miyamoto. It seems like they need to come around to what the rest of the industry’s doing. They’ve always plotted their own course. Yamauchi’s no longer around to plot that course.
It would be nice to see them gain some momentum again. They certainly have the money. I think they know the younger market better than a lot of other companies do. That’s always going to be a market. My granddaughter’s five years old, and she’s getting to the age where she has a Nintendo Wii. She loves it.
...Wherever there’s a screen and a keyboard or a touchpad, Tetris can go there. We’re going to try to make sure of that.
Are you still a big Tetris fan, and do you hope to see more of it on Nintendo hardware outside of Japan?