For more than twenty years, copies of Windows have come bundled with timeless games. The trend started with Solitaire in Windows 3.0 in 1990. Two years later, Windows 3.1 shipped with Minesweeper. Fast-forward to the release of Windows Vista, which included the operating system’s first Mahjong variant: Mahjong Titans. It wouldn’t be a Windows release without these games, and sure enough Microsoft has bundled all three with the upcoming release of Windows 8. This time, however, these classics have been turned into full-screen Metro-style apps with Xbox LIVE integration.
In fact, one could consider the Solitaire Collection, Minesweeper, and Microsoft Mahjong to be “gateway drugs” to Xbox LIVE, since they’re played by millions of people young and old who – believe it or not – might not have even heard of Xbox LIVE. Looking at each game’s achievement list, you’ll notice a common theme: they’re all ridiculously easy. As in, win a game for the first time, flip over your first card in Solitaire, trigger your first mine, or change themes in Microsoft Mahjong.
In recent months, Microsoft has settled on a new Gamerscore distribution for various platforms. Full Xbox 360 retail games include 1,000G, downloadable Xbox LIVE Arcade games come with 400G, Windows Phone titles have 200G, and free games on any platform will net you just 50G. Strangely, only Minesweeper includes the full 50 Gamerscore. The Solitaire Collection only has 40G, while Microsoft Mahjong has a mere 25G.
But in the long run, the actual point values don’t matter. Achievements, for many people, are one of the Xbox 360’s best features (aside from Xbox LIVE, of course). Including a few achievements, no matter how few, in Windows 8’s bundled games are sure to rope in some unsuspecting casuals. Once you’ve been bitten by the achievement bug, it’s hard to go back to games without them. Suddenly, these gamers will want to be in Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE ecosystem. These casual players might not make the jump to core Xbox gamers, but the Windows Store will offer plenty of Xbox LIVE-enabled alternatives.