Mirrorsoft Tetris Game, Atari ST version

Meanwhile, the IBM PC version of Tetris is released by Spectrum Holobyte and Mirrorsoft, causing an instant sensation not only as an obscenely addictive game, but also as “the first game from behind the iron curtain”. The game is filled with graphics of Russian themes (battles, Matthias Rust landing his Cessna on Red Square, Yuri Gagarin’s first space mission). Stein still does not legally own any rights to Tetris.

June 1987
Stein presses for and finally gets a license giving him the rights to make Tetris for the IBM PC and compatibles “and any other computer system”. Now he owns the copyrights to Tetris, but he still doesn’t have a contract with the Russians.

January 1988
Tetris is released for all home computers. It gets glowing reviews and sells quickly in computer stores. Stein’s plan to “steal” the rights to Tetris is foiled when the CBS Evening News interviews Pazhitnov as the inventor of the game. A new company, ELORG (Electronorgtechinca), takes over the negotiations with Stein.

ELORG’s director, Alexander Alexinko, realizes that Stein is giving out rights he doesn’t have and threatens to cut off any deal. Stein, in turn, threatens to start an international situation.

May 1988
After months of bickering, Stein signs a contract with ELORG to make Tetris for computers. The contract expressly forbids rights to arcade and handheld versions, and any other mediums “which we did not dream about yet”. Meanwhile, Tetris has become the top-selling computer game in England and the United States.

July 1988
Stein meets with Alexinko in Paris to work out arcade rights to Tetris. Alexinko has quite a different agenda; he hasn’t seen any money from Stein at all yet. Meanwhile, Spectrum and Mirrorsoft are sub-licensing their rights. Spectrum gives Bullet-Proof Software the rights to make Tetris video and computer games in Japan; at the same time, Mirrorsoft gives Atari Games the exact same rights in Japan and North America. The two companies start infighting.

Robert Maxwell, owner of both Mirrorsoft and Spectrum, sides with Mirrorsoft on the matter. Atari starts plans to release an arcade and NES game (under the Tengen label). Bullet-Proof Software still has the computer rights in Japan; BPS president Henk Rogers successfully gets the rights to release a video-game version later in the year. Tetris Online is released for the Famicom in early November 1988; eventually, two million cartridges would be sold.

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