In a stark reminder that you rarely actually own anything you buy digitally, Electronic Arts’ iOS Tetris games will not only be disappearing from the App Store on April 21, but the games themselves will no longer be playable on iPhones and iPads—even if you paid for them.
Players opening either game on their iOS devices are now greeted with a pop-up message that’s also included in the “What’s New” section of both Tetris Premium and Tetris Blitz’s listings in the iOS App Store warning them that the countdown on each title has officially begun:
We have had an amazing journey with you so far but sadly, it is time to say goodbye. As of April 21, 2020, EA’s Tetris® app will be retired, and will no longer be available to play. Kindly note that you will still be able to enjoy the game and use any existing in-game items until April 21, 2020. We hope you have gotten many hours of enjoyment out of this game and we appreciate your ongoing support. Thank you!
Tetris fans on Reddit have been reacting to and lamenting the unfortunate news because while many mobile games are notorious for endlessly harassing players with ads and suggestions for in-app purchases, EA’s version of the tetromino-stacking puzzler was relatively clean, providing an excellent one-handed Tetris experience on mobile devices. Adding insult to injury is the fact that unlike Tetris Blitz, Tetris Premium wasn’t free to download and was instead cost a couple of bucks.
There are thousands of games on the App Store that developers abandoned years ago, but most can still be played until they stop being compatible with the latest version of iOS. But come April 21, both of EA’s Tetris games will simply stop working. Players are welcome to scream and shout about the decision on their online soapbox of choice. But buried deep in the games’ terms of service, EA has made it clear that the company only has to give notice 30 days before terminating one of its services.
So why is EA confiscating one of the most beloved puzzle games of all time from its users? Is the company trying to downsize its mobile gaming efforts? Does it plan to release a new version stuffed full of annoying ads and in-app purchases? The most likely reason is simpler and a lot less nefarious than that: EA doesn’t actually own the game Tetris. The game developer has for years licensed the title from the Tetris Company, which last summer announced it had signed a multi-year deal with a company called N3TWORK that would exclusively develop and publish Tetris games optimized for mobile platforms. The deal may still allow EA to develop Tetris titles for other platforms, but smartphones and tablets are no longer an option.
We’ve reached out to the Tetris Company and EA for more information and will update when we hear back.
If you’re a big fan of EA’s iOS Tetris games, you’ve got about 90 days to say goodbye to your favorite distractions. After that, you’ll either have to wait and see what N3TWORK has planned, or opt for one of the countless Tetris clones available on both Apple and Google’s app stores. It’s a reminder that just because you paid for something online doesn’t necessarily mean it’s yours for eternity. There’s a good chance you’re just leasing it until a licensing dispute means you can no longer enjoy it, or the company simply goes bankrupt, taking down servers that provide access to what you’ve paid for. If you really want to make sure your Tetris addiction is perpetually satiated, go dig out the Game Boy version of the game that still works just fine 30 years later.
Update, 3:00 p.m. EST/EDT: A representative for The Tetris Company provided Gizmodo with a statement from Casey Pelkey, vice president and general manager of Blue Planet Software, the sole agent for the Tetris brand, confirming that the agreement with N3TWORK is the reason EA’s Tetris titles will no longer be available or playable come April 21:
Last year, The Tetris Company, Inc. and N3TWORK announced a multi-year agreement where N3TWORK will be the exclusive developer and publisher of new Tetris® games for mobile devices worldwide, excluding China. EA’s announcement that it will retire its Tetris®, Tetris® Premium and Tetris® Blitz games as of April 21 is a result of this agreement.
The Tetris brand continuously aims to bring fans game experiences that are fresh, innovative and fun. We are excited about these new changes for Tetris on mobile and plan to share more news with fans very soon.