Solitaire Is Back on Windows 10, but Microsoft Wants You to Pay to Play Ad-Free

A solitaire game underway on a computer screen. Solitaire, once a mainstay of Windows installations but removed from Windows 8.1, is now back as a pre-installed program in Windows 10. Rob Wilkinson/Alamy

The Windows 10 free upgrade is finally here, and lurking in the shadows of the start menu is the triumphant return of Solitaire. But playing the iconic game is not for free—it's for freemium.

Technically you don't need to pay to play the Microsoft Solitaire Collection on Windows 10, but if you want an ad-free experience, it'll cost you. Launch the app in Windows 10 and you'll be prompted by a splash screen to upgrade to the Microsoft Solitaire Collection Premium Edition. Upgrading will remove the full-screen video advertisements, and grant you access to boosts in "TriPeaks" and "Pyramid" (two versions of the game in the Solitaire bundle) and some extra coins for completing "Daily Challenges." But it's essentially a subscription service, at $1.49 a month, or a discounted annual fee of $9.99.

Is Microsoft secretly verging on bankruptcy? Windows 10 charges you $10/year to make Solitaire ad-free.

— Bennett (@bfod) July 29, 2015

Much to the dismay of devoted Solitaire enthusiasts, the desktop version of Solitaire, a game rooted in the nostalgia of a simpler time—when hovering over the start menu and navigating to "Programs > Accessories > Games" brought you endless hours of free, mind-numbing comfort in a fraught world—was removed from Windows 8.1. It was replaced by a modern version of the game available only from the Windows Store, ads included.

Now that the game is back in its default app glory, the way it had been with every iteration of the Windows operating system since the '90s, why is Microsoft making users pay to remove ads from a built-in application?

"The gaming industry is so closely linked with the online world and the tech industry, and these are all places where huge companies and individual creators alike are trying out new experiments in revenue every day," said Gaming Editor Michael K. Rougeau. "Seeing someone shilling a product with informal sponsored posts in my Instagram feed kind of ruins Instagram for me, but for others it's no big deal. It's the same with games."

A Microsoft spokesperson provided Newsweek with the following statement:

"Microsoft Solitaire has been free to play for the past 25 years on Windows, and continues to be free to play on Windows 10. Users can access and play everything within the game for free, including new premium features like Daily Challenges and Star Club. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection game experience and Premium Upgrade features such as Double Coins for Daily Challenges, and removal of advertisements, is identical to the Windows 8 version that has been available for purchase for years."

Fair enough, Microsoft. It does seem odd, though, to trade a slice of pizza per month to go ad free on a built-in Microsoft Windows service that is available with a free upgrade. But perhaps classic default computer games like Solitaire and Minesweeper just don't hold that special place in our hearts anymore.

"As a kid I eagerly searched every computer I could get my hands on for the included games, unearthing gems like Ski Free, Full Tilt Pinball and Minesweeper, some of which have endured more than others," Rougeau said. "But what kid today would do the same? They all have thousands of games at their fingertips every time they pick up an iPad, or whatever. I think the market for Solitaire and whatever other free games come with Windows these days is adults, and I'm not sure those adults care all that much one way or the other."