Robert Maxwell & Mikhail Gorbachev In ‘Tetris,’ Explained: Did They Meet In Real Life?


The Maxwells, as shown in the film “Tetris,” were resourceful and powerful people, and when Henk Rogers got to know that they were involved in the negotiations, he felt demoralized because he knew that it wouldn’t be an easy task to win against these media giants. He knew that Robert Maxwell would find a way to seal the deal by hook or crook. But giving up was not something that Henk knew how to do, so he stayed persistent and kept going. Kevin Maxwell had contacted Henk Rogers to inform him that the arcade rights of Tetris in Japan had already been sold by his company, Mirrorsoft, to Sega. 

Henk panicked, and he didn’t know what to do. These were pretty big guns he was dealing with, and he knew that he didn’t have the resources to fight this battle alone. So, Henk went to Mr. Yamauchi and told him that the arcade rights to Tetris had been taken from him and that he needed some help. Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo, asked Henk to go to Seattle and meet Minoru Arakawa, President of Nintendo America, and Howard Lincoln, the Senior VP, and the chief legal counsel, to see what could be done. Henk was shown the handheld gaming console of Nintendo called the Game Boy and he was mesmerized by just looking at it. It was from that point in the film “Tetris,” that the fight for handheld rights, in addition to PC and video game rights, began.

How Was Kevin Different From His Father?

In the Mirrorsoft office, Robert Stein was having a meeting with Robert and Kevin Maxwell, and he was telling them that the Soviet Union would not engage with him for arcade rights unless he cleared his payments for the computer games. Kevin Maxwell told Henk Rogers that Robert Stein controlled the worldwide licensing rights, but the reality was not so simple. When Henk met Belikov in the Soviet Union, he got to know that rights for the video games, arcades, or the handheld version had never been sold to Stein. Robert Stein had presumed that the contract would encompass everything, and the way the term computer was defined in the intellectual property rights contract was such that the Soviet Union couldn’t accuse him of violating the law, but Belikov made it very clear that it was not his intention to do so. Nikolai Belikov changed the definition of the word “computer” in the contract to bring about more clarity, and once again, the parties were open to making their offers, as all the prior contracts were considered to be null and void after the amendment.

Valentine Trifonov, the minister of foreign trade, asked Kevin Maxwell what was in the deal for him, signaling that if Mirrorsoft wanted to bag the deal, they would have to bribe him. Kevin might not have been as tactful as his father, and he might have been ignorant about how the system actually functioned, but he was not a corrupt man. He told Trifonov that he would let the Soviet Union have exclusive publishing rights for Collier’s encyclopedia in exchange for the game rights. Trifonov realized that Kevin was an amateur, and he would have to contact his father, Robert Maxwell, for further negotiations. Robert Maxwell made a deal where Trifonov was supposed to get $300,000 for giving the handheld rights to Mirrorsoft. Kevin was completely unaware of what was happening behind his back. Robert knew that his son was a bit of an idealist, which according to him, was bad for the trade, and that is why he told Trifonov not to tell Kevin anything about the deal they had made.

Kevin had signed the letter of intent, according to which Mirrorsoft had to make a payment of $100,000 to Elorg to secure the rights, but he realized that his company didn’t have the funds. Robert had been embezzling funds from the pension accounts of the employees to save Mirrorsoft from going bankrupt. When Kevin and Robert came to know that the Nintendo team, headed by Henk Rogers, was on its way to the Soviet Union, they realized that they had no option other than going there and securing the deal themselves. The only problem was that the Nintendo team was willing to make the payment on the spot, but Robert didn’t have that kind of funds at his disposal. 

Robert met General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he often referred to as his friend. Gorbachev didn’t help his cause, and Robert had to once again fall back on Trifonov to muscle the Nintendo team out of the negotiations. Kevin was hurt when he got to know that his father had gone behind his back and made a deal with Trifonov. Kevin might have had a lot of ideological differences with his father, but he never thought that he would be a corrupt man who wouldn’t bat an eye before selling the trust of his entire nation for his own vested interests. Robert, on the other hand, didn’t believe that his son had it in him to crack a deal on his own. Robert always thought that his son lacked the ruthless pragmatism that was required to run such an empire. But there was a difference between being pragmatic and promoting corrupt practices, and Robert probably wasn’t able to draw a line between the two things. 

Did Robert Maxwell Meet Mikhail Gorbachev In Real Life?

The deal between Henk Rogers and Nikolai Belikov made the Game Boy, Nintendo’s handheld console, a raging success all around the globe. Robert Maxwell couldn’t swallow the fact that he had been defeated on what he believed to be his home ground. We don’t know if Robert Maxwell and Mikhail Gorbachev were actually friends in the true sense, but they did know each other from before. Robert, time and again, kept reiterating in the film that everything would be under control because he was friends with Mikhail Goberchov, to the point that Kevin got annoyed as he felt that his father was showing off his reach and might when he had nothing.

In reality, Robert Maxwell did try to meet Gorbachev, but he wasn’t able to because that meeting was canceled at the last moment due to some unforeseeable reason. We don’t know for sure whether Robert Maxwell was ever able to meet Gorbachev in person after that or if he had a telephonic conversation with him, but there have been testimonies that have proved that Gorbachev was keeping a close eye on the negotiations that were happening in Elorg and that he had assured Maxwell that the Japanese company wouldn’t bag the deal. Robert had a lot of faith in his connections in the Soviet Union, and he had the belief that even if Nintendo offered a higher bid than Mirrorsoft, the deal would fall into their laps. Robert Maxwell met a tragic end when his dead body was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean in 1991. People had a lot of theories about his death, though it could never be proved that there was foul play involved. Robert Maxwell was one of the biggest power brokers of those times, but his corrupt attitude, false pride, and sense of infallibility made him vulnerable to others and became the reason for his downfall.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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