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Why doesn't China have a game like Tetris?
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By Cao Yueping

In 1984, a young Russian academic started messing about with puzzle games on his computer. Twenty-five years later we are still playing Tetris – the videogame that the Guardian says conquered the world.

As Tetris had its 25th anniversary yesterday, the craze hit the world again with millions of fans playing to set new records. Its designer Alexey Pajitnov said he never thought the game would be so popular throughout the world.

Pajitnov designed and programmed Tetris (Russian: Тетрис) while working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Center of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow in 1984. Soon the game spread through Eastern Europe. The British noticed the game two years later. Then after a copyright competition for as long as three years, Tetris finally belonged to the multinational corporation Nintendo Company Ltd. located in Kyoto, Japan. It quickly became one of Nintendo's signature games.

When so many people are crazy about Tetris, we'd like to ask why we don't have such games in China. It's available for nearly every video game console and computer operating system, requiring no special computer capability. In China we have traditional intelligent toys like the jigsaw puzzle and nine-ring puzzle, which implies we are good at exploiting such games. It seems hard, however, to develop them into famous brands.

Chinese games don't have support from giants like Nintendo, and even if an attractive game was invented, there's no adequate operating platform to promote it. The Russian model of promoting a game both at home and abroad is also not realizable in China, since the domestic programmers might not be able to assure a smooth network environment.

The Soviet government in 1984 attached particular importance to the game. Then General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev declared support for turning the domestic product into a famous brand. The Chinese State Council issued documents No. 18 and No. 47 to support the software industry, but invested most of the funds into operating systems and office software. The return on the program did not match the high cost. An official with the Information Industry Ministry has said China lacks a unified strategy to develop software.

In the video game industry, supporting the market is more efficient than supporting the producer. The relevant departments performed sluggishly in this aspect. Take the game World of Warcraft for example; after its expansion was brought to the U.S., Europe, South Korea and China's Taiwan for nearly one year, the mainland Internet users still didn't have access to it. For whatever reason, such efficiency is too far away from the current requirements for developing the software industry.

China's immature operating platform and inefficient industry and policy environment won't help in producing a "Chinese Tetris".

(China.org.cn translated by Zhou Jing, June 10, 2009)

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