Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corp., speaks at the Meta Connect virtual event in New York on Oct. 11, 2022.
Michael Nagel | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The next time you get bored during a Microsoft Teams call, try playing a game of Minesweeper with your colleagues.
Microsoft added a collection of casual games to its Teams chat and calling service on Wednesday as the company tries to get people to spend more time on the app. Solitaire will also be available along with a new game called IceBreakers, created by Microsoft to help teammates get to know each other.
Microsoft is trying to cast Teams as the premier destination for work, building on a product that exploded during the pandemic, when employees were forced to gather and collaborate virtually. Teams is now available on most popular devices, including desktop software developers Adobe and JUICE have developed Teams integrations.
By adding games, Microsoft is trying to inject some fun into the equation and maybe even strengthen ties at work. Employees can come together remotely to win at a game of Minesweeper, a puzzle game with clickable squares featuring some virtual mines to avoid. People can also just watch the entertainment.
“The improved spectator mode allows anyone, whether actively playing that round or not, to follow the action and interact with the players on screen,” Nicole Herskowitz, vice president of Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. She compared it to the experience of watching “Jeopardy.”
Games are a trusted product for Microsoft. In addition to the entire Xbox franchise, which launched in 2001, the company has plenty of ways to play casual games. For example, the classic Klondike game is part of the Microsoft Solitaire Collection app for Windows.
In January, Microsoft announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, publisher of first-person shooter games in the Call of Duty franchise, for nearly $69 billion. The deal must first clear regulatory hurdles.
Minesweeper and Solitaire both debuted with Microsoft in 1990. Solitaire, a variation of an 1800s card game, was a utility designed to help people become familiar with Windows and learn how to use a mouse, but it eventually became the most popular game on the operating system, The Washington Post reported in 1994. The newspaper said that Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and first CEO, had such a severe addiction to Minesweeper that he removed the game from his PC.
The big problem for Microsoft now is getting executives to renew and expand their subscriptions to Office 365, a critical bundle the company is currently rebranding as Microsoft 365. Office accounted for 23% of Microsoft’s total revenue in the third quarter .
Microsoft even positions games as a possible way to improve cognitive development. In an email to CNBC, a Microsoft spokesperson cited a study of more than 2,000 children suggesting that those who played video games saw gains in working memory compared to those who did not play.
As part of the new release, Microsoft is also bringing a mobile-friendly game called Wordament to Teams. The Boggle-esque game appeared in 2011 after Microsoft asked employees to build Windows Phone apps in their spare time, leading two staffers to think of the game as something they could play with their wives. The game, which challenges players to find words in a grid of letters, has already been downloaded 1 million times on Android.
The Microsoft spokesperson said the IceBreakers idea was extremely popular.
“While we tested various game ideas at Microsoft, this was one of the most requested game types and we listened to the feedback to create this game,” the spokesperson wrote in the email.
Minesweeper, Solitaire, Wordament, and IceBreakers are included in the Games for Work app for Teams, now available to Microsoft business and education customers. Admins must enable access to apps in Teams for users to play the games. The company will bring more games from partners to Teams in 2023, Herskowitz wrote.
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