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A quick look back at Microsoft Pinball that was bundled with some Windows versions

microsoft pinball

In previous articles, we have looked back at the development of games that were bundled with Microsoft's various versions of Windows. Many were developed by Microsoft team members as side projects such as Solitaire, Minesweeper. and Hover. All of them became big hits, thanks in part to the fact that they were already installed with Windows.

However, one game that ended up being included in a number of Windows versions was actually a port of another game. We are talking about .

full tilt pinball

The game started its life at developer Cinematronics, which formed in 1994. A year later, in October 1995, the developer launched Full Tilt Pinball which was published by Maxis (Maxis would acquire Cinematronics in 1996). The Windows and Mac game included three pinball tables. One, Dragon's Keep, was a fantasy-themed tablet, while another, Skullduggery, was a pirate-themed pinball game. The third pinball table was Space Cadet and from its title, you can guess correctly that it had a sci-fi space theme.

However, even before Full Tilt Pinball was released, a version of the Space Cadet table was released by Microsoft as part of its Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95 product. It launched on the same day that Windows 95 did, on August 24, 1995. Since lots of people got Windows 95, those of them that also decided to get the Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95 pack, were able to play the version of the Space Cadet pinball tablet.

The Microsoft version of Space Cadet included with the Microsoft Plus! disk did have a few visual and gameplay differences from the Full Tilt Pinball versions. One big difference was that the Microsoft version of Space Cadet was locked at 640 x 480 resolution, while the Full Tilt Pinball edition included three resolution choices, including one at 1024×768.

The Microsoft 3D Pinball Space Cadet table turned out to be a big hit for people who bought the Microsoft Plus! add-on. Microsoft decided to bundle the game on the disk for the next version of the OS, Windows 98. However, when Windows 98 was released, the installation instructions included on the disc for Microsoft Pinball were incorrect. Microsoft had to post a correct version on its website.

After that, Microsoft 3D Pinball was included in Windows ME and Windows XP for consumers, and Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 for business desktop players. It was also added to the CD-ROM of the 2003 update of Windows XP 64-Bit version in 2003, and also in the Windows XP Professional x64 Edition in 2005.

According to the NCommander YouTube channel, Microsoft 3D Pinball was also included in early versions of Longhorn, which would later evolve into Windows Vista. While there is no official word from Microsoft on why the game didn't make it into Vista, NCommander speculates that the older graphics of Pinball, and the fact that it was locked in such a small resolution, would require a major upgrade to run well and display well on Vista. However, since Pinball was technically still a licensed title from Maxis, it's possible Microsoft didn't have the rights to make that kind of development effort.

While Microsoft 3D Pinball is no longer bundled with Windows, it still has a following online. Indeed, you can download it and play it on Windows 10 and 11. In this age where older games from the 1990s are getting official remastered versions all the time, perhaps there's a way for Microsoft to get the rights back to Pinball and make a new version for modern PCs. We would imagine that could turn out to be a popular release.

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