Robert Stein: How Did the Software Distributor Die?

With Apple TV+’s ‘Tetris’ delving deep into the true story of how the incredible titular video game made its way to the masses, we get a complete insight into its surprisingly complex background. After all, this Jon Baird original drama details everything from the nostalgic puzzle’s inception by Alexey Pajitnov to its discovery by Robert Stein to the fight Henk Rogers put forth for licensing. Yet for now, if you simply wish to learn more about the entrepreneur to have introduced the entertainment extravaganza to the West in the first place, we have got the necessary details for you.

Who Was Robert Stein?

It was reportedly back in 1956 when Robert fled from his homeland of Hungary in search of better opportunities for not just himself but also his close family, only to soon find himself in England. He actually spent the ensuing year or so working several odd jobs and moving from one place to the other to save as much money as possible, ultimately helping him secure a base home in 1958. However, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that he decided to genuinely combine his interests in games as well as computer science, just to swiftly land a job as a SciSys chess computers salesperson.

Image Credit: Moleman/YouTube

The fact Robert was then able to shatter the ranks of corporate with his sheer skills was simply brilliant, and it resulted in him establishing his own publishing firm in England, Andromeda Software. This organization seemingly stemmed from his need to distribute games upon finding many lucrative ones, plus he soon got a collaboration deal with the game development business Novotrade. It thus comes as no surprise he instantly recognized Tetris’ potential after coming across it during a visit to this Hungarian enterprise in early 1988, making him determined to buy its full rights.

By this point, Robert had actually developed around 70 games using Hungarian programmers/resources alone, yet Sovient’s Tetris had somehow found its way to a personal computer there. ”This company had a lab where they were developing all sorts of things, and they wanted to show me scientific, sophisticated products,” he had once stated. ”But I looked over in a corner and said, ‘What the hell is this, jumping up and down on the I.B.M. PC screen?’ They said, ‘Oh, it’s just a game.'” Little did they realize that this simple game would become the most popular one to exist.

Robert thereon managed to license the game from Russia before sublicensing it to Robert Maxwell’s then-renowned communications conglomerate division Mirrorsoft, only for it not to pan out. The initial contract he had signed wasn’t entirely permissive of the ways he was distributing Tetris, plus he wasn’t receiving any payments from his sublicensees to forward to the communist nation. He hence lost personal computer rights in 1990 on the grounds of failure to make the decided-upon payments in a timely manner, and he lost arcade rights for the same reason two years later.

Image Credit: Moleman/YouTube

According to the Apple TV+ production, Robert never really got over losing Tetris since he believes it turned friends into enemies, but he still continued licensing games for years to come. Moreover, reports suggest that while Soviet inventor Alexey Pajitnov and Dutch-born distributor Henk Rogers continue to earn millions from it, he walked away with just $150,000 to $200,000. But it does remain undeniable that if it weren’t for him, the game wouldn’t have even seen the light of day in the West, at least not back when it first rose to fame in the 1980s-1990s owing to communism.

How Did Robert Stein Die?

From what we can tell, upon leading a long, happy, quiet life surrounded by friends and family in every sense of the term, Robert (aka The father of Hungarian video game development) passed away in 2018. The official cause of his death has honestly never been revealed, so considering the fact he was quite elderly and seemed okay during his 2017 appearance in ‘Moleman 4,’ we believe it to be from natural causes. In other words, it’s likely nothing could be done to help him live off of the fruits of his hard work a bit longer.

Read More: Where is Kevin Maxwell Now?