THQ lands 360 Tetris rights

Legal settlement gives publisher rights to bring classic puzzle game to next-gen console.

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When the Xbox 360 debuted in Japan, it did so with its own iteration of Tetris. But while Japanese 360 players have been able to blissfully arrange falling blocks for months, American owners of the console have had to get their puzzle fix by pushing colored jewels around playfields on Xbox 360 Marketplace titles.

That's likely to change soon, as THQ, publisher of the Tetris Worlds series of games, has obtained the rights to publish an Xbox 360 Tetris game in North America and other territories, excluding Japan, according to the company's financial filings. THQ hasn't published a console Tetris game since releasing an online-enabled version of Tetris Worlds for the original Xbox in June of 2003.

The agreement between THQ and The Tetris Company, the rights holders to the popular series, actually came out of a legal dispute between the two. In 2005, THQ sued The Tetris Company, accusing it of breaking its deals with the publisher and preventing the planned release of a THQ Tetris game for the Nintendo DS. The publisher claimed it had met all the requirements of its deal with Tetris to have their licensing agreement renewed until 2007.

The two sides came to a settlement late last year, with the Xbox 360 licensing agreement being the only part of it made public. DS owners likely know already what became of the series' DS debut. Nintendo wound up with the rights to publish a DS Tetris game, which it did earlier this year.

This is not the first time Nintendo's version of the puzzle game made it to market while another publisher's own Tetris was tossed. In 1989, Atari subsidiary Tengen released a multiplayer version of Tetris for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, while Nintendo released its own single-player version of the game.

According to Leonard Herman's Phoenix: The Rise & Fall of Video Games, Nintendo discovered that Tengen unknowingly licensed only the computer rights to the game. Shortly thereafter, the console manufacturer made its own deal for console and handheld rights to the game, and Tengen was forced to recall its version of Tetris. According to Herman, the publisher destroyed 268,000 copies of the game.

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