Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corp., speaks during the Meta Connect virtual event in New York City on October 11, 2022.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Next time you’re bored on a Microsoft Teams call, try joining your co-workers in a game of Minesweeper.
Microsoft Wednesday added a collection of casual games to its Teams chat and call service as the company tries to get people to spend more time in 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 make Teams the premier work destination, developing a product that exploded during the pandemic, when employees were forced to gather and collaborate virtually. Teams is now available on the most popular devices and desktop software developers, including Adobe and SAP have developed Teams integrations.
By adding games, Microsoft is trying to sprinkle fun into the equation and perhaps even strengthen the bonds at work. Employees can meet remotely to win a game of Minesweeper, a clickable puzzle game that features virtual mines that must be avoided. People can also just watch the entertainment.
“Enhanced spectator mode allows everyone, whether they’re actively playing that round or not, to follow the action and engage with players on screen,” Microsoft vice president Nicole Herskowitz wrote in a blog post. She compared it to the experience of watching “Jeopardy.”
Games are a familiar commodity for Microsoft. In addition to the entire Xbox franchise, which launched in 2001, the company offers a slew of ways to play casual games. The classic game Klondike, for example, is part of the Microsoft Solitaire Collection app for Windows.
In January, Microsoft announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, which publishes first-person shooters in the Call of Duty franchise, for nearly $69 billion. The agreement must first remove regulatory barriers.
Minesweeper and Solitaire both debuted with Microsoft in 1990. Solitaire, a variation of a card game from the 1800s, was a utility designed to help people get to grips 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 Bill Gates, co-founder and first CEO of Microsoft, was so addicted to Minesweeper that he removed the game from his PC.
The big game for Microsoft now is to get executives to renew and expand their subscriptions to Office 365, an essential package the company is currently renaming Microsoft 365. Office accounted for 23% of total Microsoft revenue in the third quarter.
Microsoft is even positioning games as a potential 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 working memory gains compared to those who did not.
As part of its new release, Microsoft is also offering a mobile-friendly game called Wordament to Teams. The Boggle-like game emerged in 2011 after Microsoft asked employees to build Windows Phone apps in their spare time, leading two staff members to design the game as something for them to play with their wives. The game, which challenges players to spot words from a grid of letters, has racked up 1 million downloads on Android.
The Microsoft spokesperson said the IceBreakers idea was particularly popular.
“As we tested different game ideas at Microsoft, this was one of the most requested types of games, and we listened to feedback to create this game,” the spokesperson wrote in the email. .
Minesweeper, Solitaire, Wordament and IceBreakers are in the Games for Work app for Teams, which is available now for Microsoft Enterprise and Education customers. Admins must enable app access in Teams for users to play games. The company will integrate more partner games into Teams in 2023, Herskowitz wrote.
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