Although we're all avid gamers here who would most likely enjoy playing Robotron or M.U.L.E. as much as the latest first-person shooter featuring humanoids with working pituitary glands, I bet most of us spend next to no time playing Windows pack-in games--those things that show up under "GAMES" on most Windows computers--you know, Solitaire, Free Cell, and so on. Well, apparently we're in the minority--at least according to GamerScore, who claims that Windows Vista's updated in-the-box games are so much better than the originals that even Mac-heads may end up addicted to them. Basically, what we're talking about here are improved animations.
Now that I've had a chance to experience all three of the major computing platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux), I can honestly say that Linux has the best in-the-box games--at least if you're running Ubuntu or Mepis. Ubuntu comes with free games that are sure to please children of the Amiga generation--it's a virtual arcade of games like artillery and Boulder Dash (aka Emerald Mine).
Microsoft did include a nifty pack-in game with my Gateway Tablet PC--Inkball. This game makes very good use of the tablet's pen in a sort of cross between putt-putt and breakout. It's one of those rare games that your non-gamer friends will see you playing and beg for a chance to play, too. I actually really like this game and would highly recommend it to anyone who has a tablet.
Of all the systems, the most disappointing was the Mac. The only games I found were a series of board games (aka bored games), like chess, checkers, and tic-tac-toe. Tic-tac-toe? Do you need a computer to play that? Geez, what a waste of all those nifty graphics and sound assets. The chess game seems nice for those who like being sorely beaten by a computer, but there are already so many free chess games you can play with real humans and script kiddies online that there's not much point in booting this one up.
Since the pack-in games are the only ones that most people will ever play, I think Microsoft is wise to make sure Vista's will outshine and outplay XP's. It may sound silly, but I can easily imagine people playing a souped-up Solitaire and saying, "Oh, yeah, Vista is wayyy better than XP." In such an easy, cheap stroke, Microsoft will likely land public opinion on its side, particularly if it can beat Mac on its own turf (flashy, glitzy GUI).
Of course, I can remember back when computer companies really did pack-in real games. The Amiga 600 shipped with a complementary copy of Shadow of the Beast III, for instance, and Gateway shipped a free copy of Zork: Grand Inquisitor with a system I bought back in 97 or so. Again, I'm a bit miffed that Apple didn't bother to do the same; heck, it's nice to have a top-shelf game to really show-off your new computer.
Of course, we're comparing apples and oranges here. Games like Solitaire and Free Cell, which appear by default on the install, have to be kept small and inobtrusive. Still, that doesn't mean they have to suck. What about you? Have you even bothered to try all your system's pack-in games?
It's easy for those of us who play "real" games to look down upon those silly little included mini-games included in Windows, but there's something to said for having access to an installed base of EVERY person who uses Windows in the world. What appeals to EVERY person? Traditional games like Solitaire (which was packed in with the original Windows to teach people how to use a mouse!). As for the hardcore gamers? They'll just buy the latest and greatest game anyway and will likely not give a hoot about any pack-in.
I think at the very least, the pack-in games ought to include those uber-games that everybody likes to play. Solitaire and the rest of the card games are okay, I suppose, but I'd like to see a form of Tetris and perhaps Bejeweled there as well. I think other classics that have universal appeal just never got the proper exposure and interface to really reach out to the masses. I'm thinking of games like Qix, Lemmings, and Boulder Dash--all easy-to-pick-up games entirely playable with the keyboard/mouse and with very low overhead and the potential for great fun.
I remember plenty of folks back in college who could sit in front of Solitaire on Windows 95 and play it all night long. I'm not kidding. My brain would turn to frost after half-an-hour. But, then again, I've been having difficulty getting other people interested in games as good as Neverwinter Nights and Balder's Gate, so maybe there's just something in the genes. :-)
Windows vista should Inlcude ZUMA I say !
-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-
I very much agree with you, Mark. Zuma is exactly the kind of game I have in mind.
Zuma is what makes the Xbox 360 for my wife, ironically. We play that game a lot on there. The PC version obviously is just about the same, though I'd certainly be curious to play it with it a spinner, which may in fact be an unfair advantage...
Zuma and quite a lot of the puzzle games is what makes the Xbox 360 for my girlfriend (Kuifje69). She actually plays the Xbox360 more than I do at the moment ;) I have the PC version aswell but the joypad control is nicer -> repeated mouse button pressing only increases the risk of RSI injuries in my opinion.
-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-