How Nintendo Announced it Had Licensed Tetris

By Julian Benson on at

Nowadays, if a game publisher wants to show off that it has licensed a hot property it comes in the form of a straight-laced press release. Not in the heady days of 1989. This is how Nintendo announced that it had licensed Tetris:

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Image credit: Super Mario Broth.

Nintendo's deal with Elektronorgtechnica, the state run organisation for the import and export of software (Elorg for short), was a big news. The game was hugely popular, thanks to dubiously licensed versions of the game appearing on IBM computers and an Atari arcade cabinet of the game. Elorg had given exclusive rights to Atari allowing it to produce Tetris arcade machines but Nintendo had exclusive rights to make it for consoles. Nintendo's deal led to it being able to bundle copies of the game with every Game Boy (which some say secured the handheld's success and cemented Nintendo's future).

The deal also threw a spanner in the works for Tengen, the console subsidiary of Atari. Tengen had developed and started selling a version of Tetris for the NES that it had titled TETЯIS: The Soviet Mind Game. Ignoring Nintendo's license. Nintendo contacted Atari about Tengen's infringement and Atari sued Nintendo, claiming its agreement with Elorg gave it the right to make a console version of the Tetris. Nintendo won and, after just a month, Tengen's TETЯIS was pulled from the shelves.

Over on Chris Bieniek's website about gaming ephemera you can read a more detailed history of the poster and also see a full scan of the image, including the text below, which includes the line "No other company in the world is now, nor has ever been, licensed to market the Tetris home video game title.”

Nintendo firing shots at Tengen there.