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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Vladimir Pokhilko: A Silicon Valley Tragedy

Vladimir Pokhilko was a Russian PhD and entrepreneur with a successful past in the tech industry. In 1985, Pokhilko was a practicing clinical psychologist in Moscow experimenting with the use of puzzles as psychological tests. A friend named Alexey Pajitnov showed him a computer game that he had invented which entailed lining up stacks of blocks as they dropped to the bottom of the screen. The game was based on the ancient Roman puzzle called Pentamino, but Alexey called it Tetris. Pokhilko immediately saw the mass appeal of the puzzle and convinced him it had to be marketed and sold. The two began collaborating to publish the now famous game, but their plans were derailed by Soviet authorities. In 1986 the government demanded that Pajitnov sign over all rights to the game. Pokhilko and Pajitnov considered selling the game directly to game companies, but were sure they would end up in a Soviet prison. Instead the USSR brokered deals with Nintendo and Atari, and Pajitnov lost some estimated $40 million in royalties.
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