Spider Solitaire unseats the reigning champion

Date:September 5, 2005 / year-entry #251
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20050905-15/?p=34323
Comments:    38
Summary:A few months ago, the usability research team summarized some statistics they had been collecting on the subject of what people spend most of their time doing on the computer at home. Not surprisingly, surfing the Internet was number one. Number two was playing games, and in particular, I found it notable that the number...

A few months ago, the usability research team summarized some statistics they had been collecting on the subject of what people spend most of their time doing on the computer at home. Not surprisingly, surfing the Internet was number one. Number two was playing games, and in particular, I found it notable that the number one game is no longer Klondike Solitaire (known to most Windows users as just plain "Solitaire").

That title now belongs to Spider Solitaire. The top three games (Spider Solitaire, Klondike Solitaire, and Freecell) together account for more than half of all game-playing time.

Personally, I'm a Freecell player.

Exercise: Why aren't games like Unreal Tournament or The Sims in the top three?

Comments (38)
  1. ruf says:

    1) Not every computer can run those games

    2) They are not included in the OS CD

    3) Learn how to play those games is more difficult

    4) Unreal what? i didnt know such a game existed

    5) Probably many others :)

  2. Charles says:

    >Exercise: Why aren’t games like Unreal Tournament or The Sims in the top three?

    ‘Cos they didn’t come free with about 100 million computers!

  3. sample says:

    Where did the sample of users come from? That of course determines greatly who responds.

    And you might also find that the respondants were parents; and children mostly play those games.

  4. Marco Arment says:

    >Exercise: Why aren’t games like Unreal Tournament or The Sims in the top three?

    Because you can’t play them on office computers and quickly Alt-Tab away when the boss comes.

  5. AndyC says:

    FreeCell had me hooked for ages. However I too have defected to Spider. Much more fun than endless first person shooters!

  6. David Candy says:

    This is for Spider Solitaire from 98 Plus!

    Set date till after 2039 (I think that’s the cutover point), 2088 AD will work for sure.

    You can now play only 1 unwinnable game. According to my mum who played this one game for 6 months and kept asking me how to make it play another game.

    Yet I don’t see the effort that went into Y2K for this far more meaningful (according to YOUR research here) date related bug.

  7. Moshe Rubin says:

    I don’t consider myself a compulsive person, but I find I keep coming back time and time again to FreeCell. I (like everyone else on planet Earth?) play FreeCell like I eat salted peanuts: I finish a board and plunge into the next one. One of these days I want to enjoy a FreeCell board like a good chess problem: recording my solution, sitting back, reviewing it to find a better solution, deriving heuristic rules for being a better solver (and all this while sipping a hot cup of tea / drinking a beer / enjoying a martini etc.).

    I’ve tried MS’s Spider Solitaire, but don’t enjoy it. Why not? The cards dealt are definitely not random enough. Too often I have too many identical cards on top of the stacks. I would not be surprised if Raymond discovered the randomizing algorithm is kaput.

    I think I’ll end here — have to fire up FreeCell one more time. Hmm, got <a href="http://www.wambooli.com/fun/freecell/">#11,982</a&gt;. OK, I think I’ll go home now.

  8. Spider Solitaire has unseated Solitaire as the number one most played game.

  9. Alan De Smet says:

    Why do the solitaire games dominate over things like The Sims or Unreal Tournament? Many of the reasons given (Other games are not installed by default. Other games cost additional money. Many PCs can’t run more complex games. Many other games aren’t as widely accessible.) are good. But I think a key one is that the solitaire games are fast. If you want a quick distraction while writing a letter, or something you can get up from while waiting for the oven to pre-heat, you want something that will load almost instantly and can give you the satisfaction of having completed something in just ten or so minutes. That pretty much leaves simple puzzle games like various solitaire variants. Now that we’re in puzzle game land, the game that’s already there (and is free, and runs on even the crustist of computers) wins.

  10. Mike Dunn says:

    MineSweeper gets no love? :(

    At an old job, some of the guys there would kill time in the labs by competing to get the fastest time on the beginner level, it’s actually pretty fun.

  11. Mike Dimmick says:

    I think my best ever Minesweeper time is about 6 seconds on Beginner, but then Beginner level really is an exercise in how fast you can click. Current records on this computer (I don’t play it much) are:

    Beginner: 8 seconds

    Intermediate: 49

    Expert: 139

    That must have been quite an easy grid I think!

  12. god of spiders says:

    It’s not just that office boxes are too slow CPU-wise (I often see gigahertz computers only running Word), many of them come without 3D acceleration.

  13. Abomb88 says:

    So I guess my question is more of how the study was done. What operating system(s) where studied? How did they study usage? The time the app was running or just app launch? My parents launch Freecell the first thing when they start up their computers each day and the play it off and on during the day — never shutting it down until they shut down their computer at the end of the day. It makes sense that you would have good data on the games that ship with the OS but unless you were tracking processes you would not have instrumented versions of Quake or Sims to track against.

    BTW I guess Wes Cherry will have to do something creative again now that his app has been taken down a notch. He seems to have disappeared off of the face of the earth in recent years — at least the face of computing. Maybe he is still doing clothing design??

  14. Yeesh I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition. I just thought it was a cute story. This isn’t a peer-reviewed journal.

    It took me a while but I found the message that summarized the results. A system developed by Microsoft Research collected the data from 5500 home users of Windows XP who volunteered from across the US. Time was measured when the program was active and receiving input. (This means that music players and instant messaging programs are under-counted since they usually run in the background without input.)

  15. tsrblke says:

    I’ll agree with the fact that these games come free with the OS as a big reason they are the #1 games, combine this with their target audiance (i.e. everyone) and you have th ereal reason. The Sims and UT have very specific target audiances and age ranges, whereas most people play Solitare and such. That allows the games to claim the top 3.

  16. Anonymous Coward says:

    Noone expects the spanish inqusition! (But everyone expects that comment.)

    No smart person posts statistics on a blog read mainly by computer programmers and gets to act surprised when it gets dissected though. No, seriously, what do you expect from obsessive geeks? ;)

  17. Merle says:

    I would agree: they come free with the OS.

    One other point I have not seen yet: UT and Sims are realtime games. Although one *can* (cough) Alt-Tab away from them, the game keeps going on.

    For me, though, a card game just isn’t a card game without the tactile sensations. True, shuffling and dealing out Spider is a pain. But there’s something about staring down at the cards, adjusting them so they line up precisely, etc.

    I, too, question the distribution of survey respondants. Any hard numbers, Raymond? I see a lot more people playing Yahoo games at work than card games. My only home experience is, well, my home, but we never play those.

  18. David Candy says:

    I also used to install Win32s (needed for WinG32 – forerunner to DirectX) just to get Freecell.

    A major problem with MS OSs is that they lose freecell stats with a disk crash. While I can understand not backing up the Customer Database I can’t understand the loss of this vital information. MS should have a server to store scores on (5 billion people x 10 bytes = 50 GByte of storage – less than a modern hard drive). What do you people do all day.

  19. Bryan says:

    Speaking for myself at least, I play Penguin, Sanibel, and Pyramid — they’re all part of the Firefox Cards extension.

    The Minesweeper extension is also pretty cool, in that you can have up to 7 mines per tile. It makes enough of the rules of 1-mine-per-tile Minesweeper invalid that it takes a while to get used to.

  20. memet says:

    Why does windows not flush disk cache when it hibernates?

    I have an external USB drive which I need to manually power off when I hibernate the computer, and which I need to remember to manually power on when I resume the computer. This process is obviously prone to mistakes.

    But, why oh why? doesn’t windows just sync up the disks before sleeping.


    Thank you for listening, my name is Memet, and I have problems.

  21. D. Philippe says:

    A little off-topic, but I once cleared a Minesweeper easy level in 4 seconds flat. Nothing I did, really. Just a few lucky clicks and it happened that the spacing between the mines left no mines touching each other. The program cleared all the blank space and presented me with a "Fastest Time" dialog before I even realized what happened!

  22. PM says:

    I’ve found minesweeper to be the best pre-installed game on Windows.

    I play it mainly because I’m addicted; usually I’m too lazy to start up half-life or anything like that so I just run winmine.exe and play.

    Obviously I’ve spent too much time playing that game (my best times are 2/22/91)

  23. I used to be a FreeCell-junky. Every time I would reinstall my home computer (at least once a year) I would first backup the FreeCell registry keys and/or INI file so I could preserve my stats.

  24. John Topley says:

    Regarding Freecell: Remember that Ctrl + Shift + F10 is your friend…

  25. WGGT says:

    Glad to see so much love for around the games that ship with Windows. The existing games (minsweeper, freecell, hearts, solitaire, spider solitaire) will be updated with snazzier UI for Vista, and there will be a few new games to get addicted to. Look for them in the Games Explorer in Beta 2.

  26. Ulric says:

    My paranoid self :

    Maybe the code that detects other games does not work.

  27. Personally, I’m a Hearts fan, even though they computer AI is about as intelligent as a two year old. Plus it does allow multiplayer on a LAN, IIRC.

  28. Lance Fisher says:

    "Why aren’t games like Unreal Tournament or The Sims in the top three?"

    Because IT doesn’t install Unreal Tournament or The Sims on secretaries’ computers.

  29. Jason says:

    "Why aren’t games like Unreal Tournament or The Sims in the top three?"

    Simple – no one plays UT anymore :(


    At the time of this post there are are 100k people playing the top 3 online games: HalfLife, HalfLife2 and BattleField2.

    Check again on gamespy dot com / stats this weekend and be amazed how many people are playing online.

  30. davide says:

    nethack rules!

    Long live nethack!


  31. Matt says:

    How come no home computer has ever come with chess? Isn’t that just so illogical?

  32. Matt: I think you’ll like Vista.

  33. John Topley says:


    Mac OS X comes with a beautiful chess game based on GNU chess. In fact, that’s the only game OS X comes with.

  34. To correspond with my PDC talk about making an application &quot;light up&quot; on Windows Vista, I’ve created…

  35. Norman Diamond says:

    Spider screenshot:


    Now I’ll be the first to say that a score of 1053 isn’t worth posting. But that’s not why I posted it. Look at what’s going on in the background. It is not fake. It’s not even in a Virtual PC.

    By the way, have you ever been bored while reinstalling Windows XP or 2000 or whatever, and wished you could play Spider while installation was proceeding? Well in Vista beta 1 you can be even more bored. At the moment mscorsvw.exe has accumulated 5:08:10 of CPU time, and elapsed time has been somewhat longer than those 5 hours.

    My wife finished a spider in 122 moves, but not while Vista was in the middle of installing. That was also 2 suits.

    By the way no one mentioned winning a 4-suiter. Am I the only one? I only tried about 5 times. After about 3 times, I wasn’t going to try it again, but my wife asked so I was going to show her how impossible it was. Murphy’s law kicked in. Incredible, I couldn’t believe it when the end approached and I saw it was winnable. At the end it just said "congratulations" in Japanese, same as after winning a 2-suiter. It didn’t say "unbelievable". I tried once more after that but it was back to the usual case of not very much being movable.

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