THE MAN WHO conceived the wildly popular computer game Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, should be a very rich man. He's not. Or not yet, anyway. When the game debuted in 1986, the Soviet Software & Hardware Export Agency held the rights and garnered all royalties to Tetris, which requires players to build solid blocks out of falling geometric shapes. Pajitnov cooked up the idea when he was an employee of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Recently, though, the rights expired. So now the 41-year-old former Muscovite and his American partner, Henk Rogers, a software entrepreneur who negotiated Tetris' original deal with Nintendo, hope to cash in. Their new Bellevue (Wash.) outfit, also called Tetris, has acquired the rights to the game. Already, the duo has a licensing deal with Bulletproof Software for handheld devices. Pajitnov is not bitter about the money (no estimate on just how much) his old employer bagged. ``They were very poor,'' he says.

The game's novelty may have worn off a bit: 40 million copies are believed to be in use worldwide. Tetris, however, remains a cash cow. It's still included in some Microsoft game bundles and comes with every Nintendo Game Boy.

EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT By Stephen Wildstrom


Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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