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🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. Through determination and perseverance, Henk Rogers overcame numerous obstacles to make Tetris a global phenomenon, showcasing the power of patience, strategy, and risk-taking.
  2. Strategic decision-making and collaboration are crucial for building a successful venture, as demonstrated by Henk Rogers' experience in launching The Black Onyx in Japan despite lacking Japanese language skills and business knowledge.
  3. Effective marketing, networking, and seizing opportunities are crucial for the success of a product or business. Henk Rogers' proactive approach and partnerships played a significant role in the success of Black Onyx.
  4. Henk Rogers' determination and innovative approach led him to secure a deal with Nintendo, becoming a publisher and establishing a unique advantage in the industry.
  5. Henk Rogers' ability to make quick decisions and secure deals at trade shows gave him a competitive advantage, allowing him to successfully publish major games and recognize the potential of Tetris.
  6. Tetris, initially a popular game in the Soviet Union, gained global popularity and demand, leading to licensing negotiations in various countries.
  7. Henk Rogers faced setbacks and challenges but persevered in securing the rights to publish Tetris in Japan, leading to a successful deal with Atari Games and the opportunity to release the game for the Nintendo system.
  8. Henk Rogers' determination and strong relationships played a crucial role in the success of Tetris, showcasing the importance of perseverance and strategic partnerships in overcoming obstacles.
  9. Strategic reasoning and persuasive communication are crucial in securing successful business deals, as demonstrated by Henk Rogers' pitch to include Tetris with the Game Boy, which ultimately increased sales and broadened the customer base.
  10. Henk Rogers' proactive approach and personal intervention in business negotiations emphasize the significance of taking decisive action and going the extra mile to secure opportunities.
  11. Despite facing obstacles, Henk Rogers insisted on pursuing the rights for Tetris, ultimately showcasing the Nintendo cartridge and asserting his position as the game's publisher, leading to its global success.
  12. Success in business negotiations requires persistence and adaptability in overcoming unexpected challenges, even when facing potential losses or skepticism from others.
  13. Clear communication, adaptability, and strategic negotiation are crucial elements in reaching business objectives, as demonstrated by Henk Rogers' successful agreement with Russian officials for Game Boy Tetris rights.
  14. Henk Rogers' strategic thinking and negotiation skills paid off as he secured the rights for Tetris on the Game Boy, sold millions of copies, and formed a strong partnership with the game's inventor.
  15. Henk Rogers' decision to form The Tetris Company was driven by the challenge of disputing copyright and trademark in multiple countries. His success in the mobile phone market led to the establishment of Blue Lava Wireless.
  16. Despite facing legal battles and license expirations, Henk Rogers' determination and resilience allowed him to protect the worldwide rights to Tetris and achieve financial success. However, a severe heart attack served as a reminder of the importance of life beyond money.
  17. Henk Rogers' journey showcases the transformative power of personal experiences and the importance of individual commitment in creating meaningful change for our planet and future generations.
  18. Success in Tetris, like surfing, requires starting small and building skills gradually, hands-on experience, active participation, and a strong bond between team members and family.

📝 Podcast Summary

The captivating story of Henk Rogers and his mission to bring the popular video game Tetris to the world.

Tetris, a seemingly simple video game, taught Henk Rogers important life skills such as patience, strategy, risk-taking, and perseverance. Despite facing numerous obstacles, including Soviet bureaucrats, powerful companies like Atari, and skeptical executives at Nintendo, Henk was determined to spread Tetris worldwide. The story behind Tetris is full of intrigue, rivalries, and backstabbing, so much so that Hollywood even made a fictionalized film about Henk's life. However, the version of the story we're about to hear is not a fabrication. It's the true account of how Henk Rogers made Tetris one of the most popular video games of all time, alongside its original creator, Alexey Pajitnov.

Importance of Business Management and Delegation of Tasks

Henk Rogers learned the importance of proper business management and delegation of tasks through his experience with his father's business. His father's lack of accounting, tax payment, and understanding of company structure hindered his success. In contrast, Henk Rogers recognized the need to have others involved in running his own business, even from the start. He approached SoftBank for distribution and instead of seeking a publisher, he realized he could self-publish with the help of a company for cassette and disc duplication. Despite not knowing Japanese and lacking knowledge in business, he successfully launched the first role-playing game in Japan, The Black Onyx, by utilizing his own skills and resources. This demonstrates that strategic decision-making and collaboration are important factors in building a successful venture.

The Power of Marketing and Networking

Successful marketing and effective networking can greatly contribute to the success of a product or business. In the case of Henk Rogers and his role-playing game, Black Onyx, initial sales were disappointing due to a lack of understanding and inadequate advertising. However, by actively reaching out to magazines, demonstrating the game, and leaving it with them for review, Black Onyx received rave reviews and generated significant buzz in Japan. This led to a renewed order from SoftBank and the game's success as the number one game in Japan in 1984. Additionally, Henk Rogers' proactive approach in seeking out partnerships, like approaching Nintendo to publish a GO game, further emphasized the importance of networking and seizing opportunities in business endeavors.

Henk Rogers' Persistence and Quick Thinking Turned Setback into Opportunity

Henk Rogers was able to secure a deal with Nintendo to publish a game, despite initial rejection. Henk's persistence and quick thinking allowed him to turn a potential setback into an opportunity. He took the game Go, which was not owned by anybody, programmed the code, and convinced a programmer in England to come to Japan and create the graphics. However, when Henk presented the game to Mr. Yamauchi, the founder of Nintendo, he found out that he had never played any of the games on the shelf. Despite this, Henk managed to convince Mr. Yamauchi to let him publish the game independently and pay him back a dollar for every cartridge sold. This deal not only allowed Henk to become a Nintendo publisher but also established a relationship with the top dog at Nintendo, giving him an advantage that no one else had.

Henk Rogers' Quick Decision-Making and Competitive Advantage in Publishing

Henk Rogers had the authority and flexibility to make quick decisions in his publishing company, which gave him a competitive advantage. He didn't have to go through multiple layers of approval like other companies, allowing him to move faster and secure deals with game developers at trade shows. This helped him successfully publish games from major companies like Star Wars and Electronic Arts in Japan. Despite the trend of flashy and sophisticated games at the time, Henk Rogers recognized the potential of Tetris, a simple puzzle game with geometric shapes. His intuition and passion for unique games led him to bring Tetris to Japan, where it captivated not only him but also his entire company.

The global phenomenon of Tetris: from Soviet Union to worldwide licensing negotiations.

Tetris, a game created in the Soviet Union, gained huge popularity and went viral across the country. It became so popular that it was seen as a potential threat to productivity in the Soviet Union. People were copying the game and playing it in offices, leading to a decrease in work efficiency. Westerners also started discovering the game and it spread beyond the Iron Curtain. Henk Rogers, who had contacts with game companies in England and the US, saw an opportunity to obtain the license for Tetris in Japan. He reached out to Gilman Louie, who was representing Spectrum Holby, a US company with rights to Tetris. This shows the global impact and demand for the game, leading to licensing negotiations in different countries.

Henk Rogers' Determination Pays Off: Acquiring the Rights to Tetris in Japan

Henk Rogers faced numerous challenges and setbacks in acquiring the rights to publish Tetris in Japan. Initially, a deal with a sister company fell through and the rights were given to Atari Games. Frustrated, Henk Rogers insisted on getting the personal computer rights back, which was only a consolation prize compared to the lucrative Nintendo console rights. Determined to secure the rights, he directly reached out to Atari Games, pitching why his company should be the one to publish Tetris in Japan. After a 10-day trip and a second meeting, he successfully acquired the license for $300,000. This deal allowed him to sell cartridges for the Nintendo system, with the aim of releasing the game in time for Christmas.

Perseverance and strategic relationships in overcoming financial challenges

Perseverance and strategic relationships are crucial in the face of financial challenges. Henk Rogers faced the initial hurdle of needing to order 200,000 units of Tetris but only being able to secure 40,000 units. However, through his connection with Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, and the relationship he had built with Mr. Ya mochi, the head of Nintendo, he was able to persuade them to increase the order. Despite facing a slow start and difficulties in marketing, Tetris eventually went viral and sold out everywhere. This success led to even greater demand, requiring another 200,000 copies. To finance this, Henk Rogers used his resourcefulness and convinced his wife's parents to put up their real estate as collateral for a loan. Ultimately, his determination and strong relationships paid off, as the game became a hit.

Taking a Gamble: Tetris and the Game Boy

Henk Rogers took a gamble by pitching the idea of including Tetris with the Game Boy to Nintendo. He recognized the potential of the handheld gaming system despite its limitations such as a small black and white screen. Henk knew that Tetris would be a perfect fit for the Game Boy and would appeal to a wide audience, including women who were not traditionally targeted by video games. His pitch emphasized that including Tetris would attract a larger customer base and ultimately increase sales. Despite not initially having the rights for the handheld version, Henk's honesty and confidence in obtaining them convinced Nintendo to agree to his proposal. This demonstrates the importance of strategic reasoning and persuasive communication in striking successful business deals.

Henk Rogers: Taking Matters into His Own Hands

Henk Rogers took decisive action when faced with communication issues and potential loss of opportunity. Despite not receiving enough feedback from Robert Stein, who was supposed to negotiate for the handheld rights to Tetris, Henk decided to take matters into his own hands. He flew to Moscow in February 1989, during a time of liberalization in Russia, to figure out the situation himself. This demonstrated his commitment to securing the rights and ensuring that Tetris would not be licensed to another company like Muralsoft. Henk's willingness to go the extra mile and personally intervene highlights the importance of proactive and hands-on approach in business negotiations.

Henk Rogers' Determination and Boldness in Securing Tetris Rights

Henk Rogers took a bold and determined approach to secure the rights for Tetris. Despite being told he couldn't enter the Soviet organization called Ellor due to having a tourist visa, he refused to give up. Henk Rogers insisted on going in and took matters into his own hands. When he finally managed to get inside, he encountered Mr. Bekoff, who would become the person he negotiated the deal with. Although Mr. Bekoff initially stated that console rights for Tetris were never licensed to anyone, Henk Rogers showcased the Nintendo cartridge and asserted his position as the publisher of the game in Japan. This encounter marked the first step towards acquiring the rights for Tetris and paved the way for its global success.

Henk Rogers' Persistence and Adaptability in Business Negotiations

Henk Rogers faced a critical situation in Moscow regarding the rights to publish Tetris on the Game Boy. He initially believed he had the rights to produce 200,000 cartridges for the console but was informed that he did not. Consequently, he faced the risk of losing his $2 million investment. To salvage the situation, he decided to focus on securing the Game Boy deal instead. When he returned the next day, he faced suspicion and skepticism from the Russian officials in the room. However, his genuine admiration for the game and his identity as a game designer helped him gain the inventor of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov's trust, who was also present at the meeting. Ultimately, this experience highlights the importance of persistence and adaptability when facing unexpected challenges in business negotiations.

Achieving Business Objectives through Clear Communication and Strategic Negotiation

Henk Rogers had to patiently explain the intricacies of the gaming industry to the Russian officials. Despite the language barrier and occasional heated discussions among the officials, Henk remained focused on his goal. He realized that he had to be assertive like them to secure the Game Boy rights. Ultimately, after presenting a well-crafted offer, Henk managed to reach an agreement with the Russian officials in just one week. The offer involved paying them 25 cents for every Game Boy Tetris sold, potentially amounting to a significant sum due to the game's popularity. This demonstrates the importance of clear communication, adaptability, and strategic negotiation in achieving business objectives.

Henk Rogers: The Man Behind Tetris on the Nintendo Game Boy

Henk Rogers played a crucial role in securing the rights for Tetris on the Nintendo Game Boy, both in Japan and worldwide. Despite facing legal complications and government organizations, Rogers successfully negotiated the rights and made a significant profit. He sold 30 million copies of Tetris on the Game Boy, along with an additional 5 million as a box product. Furthermore, Rogers formed a partnership with Alexey, the inventor of the game, to ensure that they both received their fair share of the profits. Their partnership, formed in 1993, remains strong to this day. This conversation highlights Rogers' strategic thinking and ability to navigate complex situations in the gaming industry.

Henk Rogers' Journey to Reclaim Tetris and Expand the Brand

Henk Rogers, in his pursuit to regain his rights to Tetris, reached an agreement with Mr. Bekoff to form The Tetris Company, sharing the ownership 50-50. This decision was influenced by the fact that disputing the copyright and trademark in 60 countries would have been a daunting task. As a result, Henk Rogers now had a vested interest in expanding the brand, as he owned 50% of it. He emphasized the need for standardized versions of Tetris across all platforms, highlighting the importance of brand management. However, conflicts arose when the BEOV team decided to stop paying Henk Rogers for brand management, causing deals to be blocked for three years. Ultimately, Henk Rogers' success in the mobile phone market with Tetris led to the establishment of Blue Lava Wireless.

Overcoming Challenges and Maintaining Ownership of Tetris: The Henk Rogers Story

Henk Rogers, the publisher of Tetris, faced challenges during the three-year period when his license was running out. He had to battle in court with another company, Beko, while also dealing with the expiration of his mobile license. In order to protect the worldwide rights to Tetris on mobile, he raised money to buy out Beko and acquired the company AOR. Through this process, Henk and his partner Alexey managed to maintain ownership of Tetris. Eventually, they sold Blue Lava Wireless for $130 million, ensuring their financial success. However, shortly after this milestone, Henk suffered a severe heart attack, reminding him of the importance of life beyond money. This conversation highlights Henk's determination and resilience in the face of adversity.

Henk Rogers: A Life Transformed by Purpose and Dedication

Henk Rogers had a life-altering experience that made him reevaluate his priorities and dedicate his life to important causes. Despite achieving financial success, he realized the value of focusing on matters larger than personal gain. Henk identified four missions: ending the use of carbon-based fuel, ending war, making a backup of life on other planets, and understanding and influencing the end of the universe. He emphasized determination rather than hope, expressing certainty in the ability to fix the problems our planet faces, though acknowledging that the extent of damage is within our control. Henk's journey demonstrates the profound impact of life events on shaping one's purpose and the power of individual dedication to bring about positive change.

Preparation, experience, and a strong bond: The keys to success in Tetris

Success requires preparation and hands-on experience. Henk Rogers compares it to surfing, emphasizing the importance of starting small and gradually building skills to tackle bigger challenges. Merely reading about something in a book is insufficient; practical application is necessary. Additionally, the conversation highlights the ongoing involvement of both Henk Rogers and Alexey in the company, ensuring collective decision-making and active participation in licensing deals. The strong bond between them is evident as they worked hard to keep Tetris alive, with Henk Rogers referring to himself as Dr. Tetris and Alexey as Mr. Tetris. Finally, the conversation reveals the continuity of Tetris within the family, as Henk Rogers' daughter now runs the company, driven by her ambition to surpass her father's success.