Even with all the breakthroughs in technology that have allowed us to become the most entertained society in history, no console-game first-person shooter or online puzzle challenge can trump the popularity of card games. In their innumerable forms, they remain one of the most enduring pastimes around the world.
However, they also have proven to be exceptionally adaptable, such as the case of solitaire. Centuries after it had been established as a playing-card favorite, solitaire became a mainstay on PCs when they became fixtures in most homes in the 1990s. The solitaire program included in Microsoft Windows was, along with Minesweeper, one of the most heavily used PC applications of all time.
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The popularity of card games has remained a constant because, as the oft-used adage goes, they take minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. King.com, the largest social game developer in Europe and the second biggest developer of games for Facebook, understood solitaire’s appeal in 2003 when it scored its first gaming hit with a version of Tri Peaks, a variation of solitaire where the object is to clear three peaks made up of cards from a single deck. The game’s universal appeal and ongoing adaptability became apparent again with King.com’s recent launch of Pyramid Solitaire Saga, which quickly became the top solitaire game on Facebook, with more than a five million monthly players.
Pyramid Solitaire Saga is delivering in ways that the single-player digital versions could not largely because of King.com’s adaptation – what we like to call the “Sagafication” – of the Tri Peak game. King.com’s Saga series reimagines games as an enhanced experienced equipped with social components and an elaborate back story that heightens escapism with a romanticized, exotic playing environment. In the case of Pyramid Solitaire Saga, the player is now a female adventurer a la Indiana Jones who must explore ancient Egyptian ruins. When she completes a task, such as stacking cards that add up to a specific sum, a golden scarab scampers about and some Saharan dust blows across the screen. The Saga-type upgrade also allows for the layout of each level to vary widely, with almost none of them resembling that of the traditional Tri Peaks game.
Equally integral to the Saga gaming experience are the social hooks, which include such features as leaderboards, the ability to chart a friends’ progress or activate their network to help unlock new levels and get more lives. All this elevates the original version of the game far beyond the limitations of its solo-player origins as it sparks competition and enhances the gaming experience. Yet even with all these innovations, many of the game’s traditional card-game bloodlines remain.
King.com has adapted the pyramid solitaire game so that it’s now even more ideal for the targeted audience of women between the ages of 25 and 45. With their busy schedules, they might have only a few minutes to kill – on average, a level could be completed in just a few minutes – and play a couple of levels. Or if they want to indulge in a marathon gaming session, they can play much longer – along with providing stress relief, the game was designed to be easy to pick up while also having enough depth to keep those interested for hours at a time.
While a player could play their own offline version with a deck of cards, the experience is somehow lacking when you factor in the gaming and social mechanics of Pyramid Solitaire Saga. You now have additional missions to complete – perhaps move a series of five cards in a row without pulling from the deck or releasing a card that is “chained.” You are also sharing your success and progress in the game with your Facebook friends. Suddenly, solitaire is no longer so solitary.
The adaptability of card games and solitaire in particular opens numerous opportunities for the creative developer, which is no small task when factoring in all the lessons learned from developing previous Saga games. The foundation and core play is there, with the games limited only by the imagination of the developer. Games can now have an engaging environmental backdrop and a host of new levels and unexpected challenges to make gameplay a constantly changing and ultimately satisfying experience. These adaptations not only give new life to an old offline favorite but ensure that familiar titles just might live on like the Great Pyramids.
Levina Nilsson is the producer for King.com’s Pyramid Solitaire Saga and a veteran of multiple online business and startups. In her youth, she frequently gave the family PC a workout by playing solitaire and pinball.