Tetris Makes Game Boy a Must-Have

In 1989 the rights to Tetris were in hot debate. Nintendo realized that the game would be perfect for the GameBoy and carefully negotiated with the Russian rights holders, ELORG, and secured worldwide rights to publish the game in handheld format. In conjunction with BPS, the original publisher of Tetris in Japan -- a close partner of Nintendo and a chief negotiator on behalf of the company for the worldwide rights -- development was begun on a version of Tetris for the Game Boy to be finished in time for the system's launch in the summer of 1989.


Don't leave home without it.
Riding the crest of the wave of Tetris' popularity was a brilliant move on Nintendo's part. At that point, the game was hot and new -- and everyone was eager to check it out. It had already proved to be a gigantic hit on PCs. Ushering in the handheld age with Tetris was also a stroke of genius since the original Game Boy, which was restricted to a limited color palate and a small screen size, simply wasn't good enough to display complex graphics. Tetris was a perfect fit because its simple geometric shapes were easy to discern on the gray and green screen of the original GB, and the game didn't suffer from the system's trademark blur since it didn't scroll.

Tetris pushed the GB from a mere game system to a sensation. The game was packed in with the system in the U.S., so everyone who bought a Game Boy quickly became a Tetris fan. The true brilliance of Tetris as a portable game became quickly apparent. You could pull your GB out of your bag and play for a few minutes while waiting in a doctor's office or sitting on a bus -- and since Tetris had such wide appeal, the audience for GB wasn't as limited to kids as the NES was. Adults who regularly traveled on planes started buying Game Boys, and in Japan where train travel is extremely popular, the GB became a traveling accessory as well.

Soon, driven by the must-have nature of a GB packed with Tetris, sales of the system skyrocketed. As with the NES, the market was soon flooded with software from staunch third-party publishers like Konami and Capcom. The games, which were cheap, were sold in droves. The killer app for the system was always Tetris, though. Without the push of the perfect portable application, the Game Boy may have never become the most popular system in the world.

ferricide: I bought a Game Boy pretty much ASAP simply because it was made by Nintendo. I didn't really know what Tetris was all about at that point, but I immediately knew I loved it -- I remember being surprised, since the screens in Nintendo Power didn't even really make sense to me. Sure, Nintendo had the sense to offer Super Mario Land from the get-go, too, but packing Tetris in, instead of the Mario title, was pure genius. After a few months all I ever played on the GB was Tetris -- everything else was just slow, boring, and limited compared to the games available on the NES. Tetris is still the perfect portable game -- I make sure to pack Tetris DX when I head out on a trip with my GBA-SP.

hardcore_pawn: I remember going into a local electronics store in Manchester, U.K., and seeing Tetris running on the Game Boy. I'll never forget the feeling of amazement as I stood there transfixed for what seemed like an eternity as I played this awesome new puzzle game. After convincing my folks that I'd die without a Game Boy, I managed to addict my whole family to playing Tetris on a nightly basis. At the time, other sweet games like Super Mario Land were also hitting the GB, but Tetris remained the one that sold me on the system. Millions of gamers worldwide adopted Game Boy Tetris, and it remains one of the most successful games for any Nintendo system ever. Great stuff indeed.

Delsyn: Peanut Butter & Jelly. Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz; Abbott & Costello; Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck. There are certain combinations of things that are so unequivocally right that you can't imagine them any other way. You can add to this list Game Boy and Tetris. For all that I've been a PC gamer for many years, I've never hesitated to shell out the shekels for the latest version of Nintendo's portable masterpiece. And while I've also bought other games for the system (don't ask how much time I've spent hunting Pokemon), the one title I've never left home without was Tetris. I can't imagine flying without it.

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