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The Story of Tetris: Henk Rogers (Part 6)

Posted on Monday, Sep 21st 2009

SM: How big is Electronic Arts’ Tetris business?

HR: It is probably somewhere between one-third and one half of their mobile phone game business.

SM: Where would you put Tetris among the all-time gaming successes?

HR: I would say that it is pretty big. Everything else is like little flames that go off. It depends on how you judge it. Tetris is a phenomenon on two sides. One is in the number of players. We sold over 70 million boxed product and have had over 70 million downloads on mobile phones. We are the number one game on mobile phones, and that business is growing.

The next big thing for me is casual gaming on the Internet. I have been moving in that direction [with] a company called Tetris Online. My partner is none other than Minoru Arakawa, who used to be the president of Nintendo of America. He retired and was living on Maui. I think he got bored so I rescued him from retirement. He now runs that business, and it is like a little Nintendo.

In the old days when there was no money to be made on the Internet, there were a lot of infringing on Tetris products out there. The first phase of the business is to get rid of all the infringing products. When we started the company, copies of Tetris started taking off on Facebook. Our number one priority was to clean up Facebook. We created a product and bought the top infringer. We then stopped all other infringers.

SM: That is an interesting way to end a dispute.

HR: You can spend millions of dollars in legal fees or you can buy someone out for less.

SM: Are all the games in Tetris Online going to be Tetris or related games?

HR: At first, until we build up our community. Mr. Arakawa has many, many friends in other companies who also want to publish games. Basically we are looking at Tetris Friends as a tool. We are looking to bring other games through the portal once Tetris has become successful.

SM: How do you differentiate between a mobile device and an Internet device?

HR: If the device is portable and you can make a phone call on it, then it is mobile even if it has a Web browser. In that case EA owns the rights.

SM: Does the online portal represent the future of Tetris?

HR: I also have other plans. I hope to make it the first virtual sport. In other words, if you go back to baseball in the 1800s, it was a very rudimentary game. There are probably hundreds and hundreds of games people were playing at that time. A hundred years later baseball was still there and even more popular.

This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tetris and it is bigger than ever. That is a totally different pattern than any other software game where they disappear after two years. Because we have this trajectory of growth I see no reason why it should stop if we handle it correctly. The next phase is to create the Tetris Cup with professional Tetris players. Once professional players appear it will change from a game to a sport.

This segment is part 6 in the series : The Story of Tetris: Henk Rogers
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