Tetris has continued to evolve over the decades. The classic game that helped Nintendo sell the original Game Boy has a brand new iteration, Tetris Battle Drop, available now for Apple iPads and playable on Facebook from The Tetris Company. That’s in addition to new games published by Ubisoft and Electronic Arts across various platforms. There’s even a sci-fi feature film franchise in development from producer Larry Kasanoff (Mortal Kombat) based on Tetris.
Casey Pelkey, vice president of marketing at Tetris Online, Inc., talks about the newest game and explains what has kept this franchise at the forefront of gamers’ minds all these years in this exclusive interview.
What were your goals heading into Tetris Battle Drop on Facebook?
Our primary goal with Tetris Battle Drop on Facebook was to expand our audience by offering a new type of play control using the mouse instead of the keyboard. You can count on one hand the number of games on Facebook that require a keyboard to play. Despite that hurdle, we managed to attract over 50 million users into our Tetris Battle game. User retention has always been more favorable for the younger audience. We learned over time it had less to do with the competitive nature of the game, and more to do with the play control options. Throughout the years, we’ve developed and tested many different ways to play with the mouse, but none of them worked well. Last year, The Tetris Company approached us for feedback on new mouse controls they developed. After the first game played, we were completely hooked.
What differentiates this mobile tablet game from that iteration?
Although both games share the same design, we were able to leverage the processing power of the iPad to deliver a richer experience. Transitioning from a mouse to touch was easier than from keyboard to mouse, but there are some noticeable differences. The biggest difference is how the ghost displays below a falling Tetrimino. The ghost represents where the falling Tetrimino is going to land when you drop it. On the Facebook version, the ghost displays wherever the cursor is. However, when playing on a tablet, you need to first touch the screen to make the ghost appear. Lifting your finger will then cause the Tetrimino to instantly drop into place—it’s surprisingly intuitive.
Is there any cross-platform play?
Yes, but most of the cross-platform benefits are happening behind-the-scenes. Users on the iPad are currently playing against users from the Facebook version of the game. We had to do this to ensure there’s always someone ready to play against, 24/7. As the iPad audience grows, direct competition from other players on tablet devices will become more standard. Beyond that, we plan to migrate many of the features from the tablet version of the game back into the Facebook version. When that happens, we can also allow users to share their progress between both platforms.
What’s the rollout plan for this game beyond Facebook and iPad?
Before jumping into more platforms, our design team is working on new features we believe will help attract and retain more users. Our next big update for the iPad version, which we hope to release within the next month or two, will allow for two users to play head-to-head using the same device. Playing against another person online is incredibly fun, but playing face-to-face with a friend or family member is downright awesome. Initial user testing of this upcoming feature has everyone here very excited about the future of the game.
What do you feel separates Tetris from other games out there?
Many games come and go, but the Tetris game never gets old—it’s timeless. I have just as much fun today playing Tetris on my iPad as I did on my Nintendo Game Boy when it first launched. No other game has come close to having that same lasting effect on me. Sometimes it’s best to not question why—just keep enjoying it while you can!
How has the proliferation of tablets and smartphones impacted the success of the Tetris franchise?
The breadth of gaming platforms has been a huge opportunity for Tetris. If a device plays games, you’ll likely find an official Tetris game on it. Electronic Arts has experienced tremendous success with smartphones and tablets, leading to over 500 million mobile Tetris downloads.
What do new platforms such as Apple TV and Android TV open up for the Tetris brand?
Tetris is now available on Amazon Fire TV, Roku devices, and Samsung Smart TVs, where it has been downloaded by millions of users. Apple TV and Android TV are both interesting platforms. The Tetris Company is currently exploring these opportunities.
What’s the challenge of coming up with fresh Tetris games today?
After 32 remarkable years, we’re still coming up with new ways to play the Tetris game. We’ve certainly benefited from new platforms, which have opened up new ways to play—from gameplay mechanics to online connectivity. The game will always remain true to its core gameplay elements, but there are infinite ways to expand upon that.
How does the company handle multiple games across multiple publishers?
Hundreds of millions of Tetris games have been sold for more than 50 platforms. We’ve been working with multiple developers, publishers and licensees around the world for many years. We love having the opportunity to work with so many talented and creative people and companies globally.
What’s been the strength of the Tetris brand over the decades?
Tetris is one of the leading and most iconic video game brands and franchises in the world. People have an inherent desire to create order out of chaos, and Tetris satisfies that on a very basic level. Every Tetris game remains true to that core game play element. For 32 years, hundreds of millions of players of all ages and cultures have come to share a common bond through their love of Tetris.
How has Tetris opened up new opportunities for in-game branding with companies such as Progressive and Toyota Corolla in Tetris Blitz?
Tetris is an iconic brand with broad appeal and huge awareness. Companies look for that in promotional partners. If it’s the right fit for the Tetris brand, we’ll explore those opportunities.
What are the challenges of bringing video games to the movie screen?
The challenge is coming up with a compelling story. While we can’t share any details yet, we are excited about the story being developed for the Tetris-based movie and will share details as soon as we can.
What happens when a big movie like Pixels, which featured Tetris, doesn’t find a box office audience?
It was fun to be a part of Pixels, but Tetris just had a small cameo at the end of the film. We hope the hundreds of millions of Tetris fans out there will want to see the Tetris movie.
How are you approaching the Tetris movie?
Our new movie is a Chinese co-production. We’re very excited about the project, and we’ll keep you updated as details are unveiled.