Alexey Pajitnov, Creator of Tetris
Henk B. Rogers, Managing Director, The Tetris Company
Maya Rogers, President and CEO, Blue Planet Software
A lifelong love of puzzles and strategy gaming has led Moscow-born Alexey Pajitnov to worldwide recognition as one of the computer game industry’s most renowned game designers. He is best known as the creator of the Tetris® game, which to date has sold hundreds of millions of copies on over 50 gaming platforms as one of the world’s most popular electronic games.
In the past 35 years, Alexey has won numerous accolades for game design and his creation of Tetris, including the International Game Developers Association’s First Penguin Award in 2007 for “pioneering the casual games market.” In 2009, Tetris was named the #2 Top Console Game of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records.
In the 1980s, Alexey worked for the Moscow Academy of Sciences as a computer programmer. In June 1984, while working in his spare time, Alexey created a groundbreaking new electronic puzzle game called Tetris. Born out of Alexey’s love of puzzles and gaming, Tetris revolutionized puzzle games with distinctive “falling” pieces called Tetriminos that players could arrange in real time in a rectangular playing field, or “Matrix,” in order to clear lines.
Tetris to the World:
A friendship with Henk Rogers, then head of a Japanese software company and currently President of The Tetris Company, helped bring Tetris out of the Soviet Union in 1989 and into worldwide circulation in a historic licensing agreement with Nintendo that put millions of copies of the game on Game Boy and Nintendo consoles. In 1996, Alexey and Henk formed the business relationship that eventually would become a key part of The Tetris Company—still the exclusive source of all licenses to Tetris. Since his original creation of Tetris, Alexey has also helped produce several sequels to the game, including Tetris 2 and Super Tetris. Alexey relocated to the U.S. in 1991 with the help of Henk Rogers, and is now a resident of Washington State.
Notable Gaming Contributions:
Just prior to moving to the U.S. in 1991, Alexey founded AnimaTek, a 3D software technology company in Moscow, along with his friend Dr. Vladimir Pokhilko. Together with Henk Rogers, they established an AnimaTek office in the United States to produce Procedurally Generated Animation. Alexey has also produced games with Bullet-Proof Software, Nintendo, and Spectrum Holobyte, including Faces, Welltris, Knight Moves and Hatris, as well as contributing to the puzzle design in the Super NES version of Yoshi’s Cookie. In 1996, Alexey joined Microsoft as the computer technology giant’s first staff game designer. There, he worked on the Microsoft Entertainment Collection Puzzle Pack, designing the game Pandora’s Box, which incorporated traditional jigsaw-style puzzles, and MSN Mind Aerobics. He was also part of the Microsoft Zone Group to create games for MSN, including Hexic, until leaving the company in 2004. Since leaving Microsoft as a staffer, Alexey has also contributed to game design as a consultant. In 2006, he returned to Microsoft to consult on the Xbox 360 version of Hexic.
Early Computer History, Education:
Alexey showed an early interest in games, and by age 14 became fascinated with puzzles and mathematical tasks. He received his Masters degree in Applied Mathematics from the Moscow Institute of Aviation, and went on to work on the pioneering fields of speech recognition and artificial intelligence.
Considered one of the visionaries of computer games, Henk Rogers helped change the face of the industry as the entrepreneur responsible for bringing the Tetris® game to the United States and world market. Under Henk’s direct leadership, the Tetris game has become one of the world’s top-selling video game brands with hundreds of millions of products sold, and after 35 years since its “birth,” that number is still growing. Today Rogers serves as President of The Tetris Company, the exclusive licensor of the Tetris brand, Chairman of Blue Planet Software, the sole agent for the Tetris franchise, founder of Blue Planet Foundation, a nonprofit clean energy advocate, and founder of Blue Startups, Hawaii’s first venture accelerator.
Early Computer Game History:
A native of Holland, Henk moved to New York City in 1964 and attended Stuyvesant High School, where he programmed a computer for the first time. In 1972, Henk moved to Hawaii, where he majored in computer science at the University of Hawaii and spent his free time playing Dungeons and Dragons. In 1976, Henk relocated to Japan, got married and started a family. Six years later, he designed, developed and published the first Role Playing Game in Japan—The Black Onyx— which, in 1984, ranked as the #1 game in Japan. Bullet-Proof Software, which published the game, was Henk’s first computer game publishing business.
In 1988, having published numerous computer games from around the world in the Japanese market, Henk discovered the Tetris game at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The game would become Bullet-Proof Software’s biggest hit, selling millions in Japan on the Nintendo Family Computer. Henk’s biggest coup, though, took place in 1989 when he flew to Moscow to negotiate with the Soviets for the Game Boy rights to Tetris. He subsequently licensed the Game Boy rights to Nintendo, where it would go on to make their handheld platform the most popular portable game system of its time, and in the process, sell well over 35 million copies.
During the negotiation process, Henk befriended Tetris creator and fellow game designer Alexey Pajitnov, and eventually helped him and his family relocate to the United States. In 1996, Henk and Alexey formed the business relationship that eventually would become a key part of The Tetris Company—still the exclusive source of all licenses to Tetris, one of the most popular computer games ever.
Blue Planet Software, Other Digital Companies:
In 1995, Henk founded Blue Planet Software to manage the Tetris brand, and has kept it in the forefront of casual gaming with continuously improved design. Thirty-five years after its launch, the Tetris game continues to be one of the world’s top-selling games with hundreds of millions of products sold on more than 50 platforms, including more than half a billion mobile downloads, and billions of games played online per year. Rogers has started Blue Startups, one of the first venture accelerators in Hawaii, which helps small teams of budding entrepreneurs incubate into viable businesses, ready for angel and venture capital funding.
Blue Planet Foundation:
A heart attack in 2005 gave Henk the opportunity to rethink the rest of his life and reevaluate the purpose of his life’s work. Henk is determined to end the use of carbon-based fuel on the planet, starting with fossil fuel use in Hawaii, his adopted home. To fulfill his mission, Henk established Blue Planet Foundation, which has become the frontline organization in the fight for indigenous renewable energy in Hawaii.
Maya Rogers is President and CEO of Blue Planet Software, where she leads the worldwide business initiatives of the Tetris® brand. With a history that spans more than 35 years, Tetris is one of the leading and most distinctive video game brands and franchises in the world. Since 2007, Maya has led the worldwide business initiatives of the Tetris brand, including game development, global licensing, marketing, brand management, merchandising, and IP enforcement. Prior to heading Tetris, Maya steered cross-culturalization and development efforts for Tetris Online China, Sony Computer Entertainment America and American Honda.
Maya is also a Founding Partner of Blue Startups, Hawaiʻi’s first venture accelerator, which helps early stage startups accelerate their businesses with investments and mentoring. Since 2014, Blue Startups has invested in 76 companies, attracting over $120 million in follow-on funding. Blue Startups is currently ranked Top 20 accelerator in the U.S.
Maya currently serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, American Red Cross Hawaiʻi Chapter, Women’s Fund of Hawaiʻi and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi. She is also a national council member of the Tiffany Circle, a Red Cross women’s philanthropist organization, and member of the U.S.-Japan council, an educational organization that contributes to strengthening U.S. Japan relations.
Maya holds a BS in Business Administration from Pepperdine University and an Executive MBA from Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management.