An interesting read: Slate's Josh Levin on the enduring appeal/success of Solitaire. Apparently its various versions (there are three in XP and Vista) remain the most-used Windows programs to this day and thus, by proxy, THE BIGGEST PC GAMES IN THE WORLD.
"The game's continued pre-eminence is a remarkable feat—it's something akin to living in a universe in which Pong were the most-popular title for PlayStation 3," says Levin. Y'know what? I wouldn't entirely mind living in that universe.
Anyway, he documents the origins of the game (its digital incarnation was created to avoid the hassle of shuffling, and there's some unsurprising dodginess behind how Microsoft got hold of it), its use in teaching core computing concepts to inexperienced or unwilling minds and its inestimable importance as something that can be discreetly played in the office.
Towards the end, there's a nod towards its possible supplanting by World of Warcraft and the like. Levin reckons this is because Solitaire's doggedly anti-social in an age now accustomed to constant online communication, but I can't help but feel that it's simply proven to be a better timesink than Solitaire. It's a game full of infinite, tiny achievements, whereas Solitaire or FreeCell have but one victory condition, and one which then requires a total reset if you want to continue playing. Though until WoW actually comes pre-installed with Windows (and the Microsoft-ActiBlizzard union necessary to make that happen is almost too terrifying to contemplate), Spider Solitaire surely doesn't have too much to worry about.