Earlier this week I noticed that Hardwood Hearts, Spades, and Backgammon were available via the XBox 360 Marketplace, and at $5 each I decided to get Hearts and Backgammon, as I love both games.
After troubleshooting my chat functionality not working (I had to solve it by putting my 360 in the DMZ for my router) I had a blast with the games. The graphics are basic, but well-done, and it's fun to be able to have a casual game of cards or Backgammon and be chatting via XBox Live. You can also send 'Fooms', which are little animations, from your in-game icon to your own or another players to express pleasure/displeasure or whatever with a recent move of theirs. I also like that you can kick off a game of Hearts with 3 computer-controlled players, and other people can step in and take over one of the computer players whenever they want.
While playing Hearts, I was chatting with a couple people who were not the primary purchasers/users of the 360, but their spouse was, and they were playing after seeing these games and then becoming interested. I wonder if Microsoft has found a way to slowly pull in people who were infrequent or non-gamers with these games? It is a very different experience to play one of these vs. running through Perfect Dark or some other game. Much more casual, social, and laid back.
I know I've been playing these more than my 'real' games, and it seems more and more people who normally aren't into the whole videogame arena may be pulled in more by these sorts of easy-to-pick-up and casual social games.
Keep an eye out for 'Twilight Sky', especially in a game of Hearts somewhere!