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Over the last few weeks, we have had a lot of interesting news in regards to the Tetris franchise, with various new homebrew versions and ports being created. Tetris is just one of those games that has been quite the success ever since it’s original introduction in the 1980s. This week it was made known that a prototype copy of the ever popular Tengen version of the game for the original NES system, has been made available for purchase via GameGavel, through a seller in Illinois. We have the information and details for you.

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First off, let me say that this is not the first time that this particular prototype has been made available for bid. Back in October, this exact same cartridge was placed on eBay for sale, and had an incredible buy it now price of $45,000. Since the cartridge was not sold, it had relisted for sale numerous times since then, with the same listing intact. However, the eBay listing was canceled on January 11th by the seller, and the cartridge was then placed on GameGavel instead later the same day, this time with a much more reasonable start price, but alongside of that, an unknown reserve price.

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Initially, I had chosen not to place the cartridge listing as news when it came up for bids on eBay this past October, mostly due to the fact that I for one was not so sure about it’s authenticity. For started, the game EPROM itself is housed in a used Duck Hunt cartridge, using a standard NES cartridge casing. (As we all know, Tengen did not use this cartridge style.) The bigger reason for my personal concern was the fact that the label was handwritten, stating that the program was the property of Tengen. (Long were the days of the Atari Prototype labels that we are all familiar with.) Not to mention the owner of the cartridge specifically states that the EPROMs are “protected with a thick tape” and that the cartridge is “glued together to prevent piracy and or duplication”. So pictures of the actual EPROM are not possible, and the owner is making it quite difficult to get inside of the casing. However, screenshots of the game are being shown as different from the released version, so who exactly knows the full story, other than the current owner?

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In 1988, Alexey Pajitnov, a researcher at the Soviet Academy of Sciences, along with Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov, created the original game of Tetris initially because they wanted to create a two-player puzzle game. After seeing the game run on an Atari ST computer, programmer Ed Logg petitioned Atari to license it. With the rights secured, Atari Games produced an arcade version under their Tengen label, and eventually ported the title to the Nintendo Entertainment System in May of 1989. Meanwhile, Nintendo approached Spectrum HoloByte on the ideas of developing a version of the game for their handheld Game Boy. The USSR’s Ministry of Software and Hardware Export stated that the console rights to the Tetris code had not been licensed to any company, and that Atari Games only had the rights to produce arcade versions. This resulted in licensing being distributed to Nintendo. As a result, 268,000 Tetris cartridges from Tengen were recalled and destroyed.

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Note the differences in the two screenshots. This is the only proof that what is contained in the Duck Hunt cartridge could be fully genuine.

The current bid for this cartridge is $100, and the reserve price has not yet been reached. Like I stated before, the original buy it now prices on eBay were way in the tens of thousands of dollars, so it could be very safe to assume that the reserve price is quite high. The GameGavel auction ends on January 20, 2013 at 10pm eastern time.

GaveGavel Listing: http://www.gamegavel.com/item.cgi?show_item=0000715311

Canceled eBay Listing: http://www.ebay.com/itm/NES-Tengen-Tetris-Prototype-Licensed-by-Nintendo-ONE-OF-A-KIND-/251158721996