Windows 10—which is out now, by the way—comes, as it used to in the pre-Win8 days, with Solitaire preinstalled. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection, in fact, which bundles the classic Klondike with other familiar variants like Freecell and Spider Solitaire, tracks stats and logs achievements, and will even have leaderboards at some point. It also has ads.
You can make the ads go away, but, as you may have guessed, it’ll cost you, and not just once: The Microsoft Solitaire Collection Premium Edition is effectively a subscription service that goes for $1.50 a month, or $10 for a year. The Premium version of the game does away with ads, and also offers more coins for completing “Daily Challenges,” and a boost when you play TriPeaks or Pyramid.
As PC World points out, this isn’t exactly unprecedented. The Solitaire Premium Edition for Windows 8.1 is exactly the same, but it’s offered as a separate app in the Microsoft Store, rather than being bundled with the OS. Minesweeper in Windows 10 is also ad-supported, although it remains a separate Microsoft Store download.
The ads in question aren’t small banners that appear at the bottom of the screen while you play. They run over the full Solitaire window, some for 15 seconds and some for 30 seconds, and while they don’t seem to pop up very often—in our quick and entirely unscientific testing, Wes was able to jump around in menus about 20 times and started a half-dozen games between them—they can’t be aborted. And because I know it’s bound to come up, no, you can’t buy an ad-free experience with those in-game coins. They’re strictly for unlocks.
Windows 10 itself is free, so complaining too much about this might seem ungracious. But I think that perhaps what we’re getting here is a flash of insight into exactly why it’s free. Fair trade?