The Facts Emerge - The future of MS Flight Simulation

I realize there may or may not be a lot of flight simmer types here, but having so many in the industry in general I’d be interested to hear any thoughts.

MS recently has killed off the Aces team that was behind Microsoft Flight Simulator and the sim community is quite up in arms about it of course. I just came across the post below on related to it, though it’s all unattributed. Any guess as to how accurate this might be with regards to what the article calls the future plans of the franchise? What’s being discussed here is moving a product from a direction it’s taken for decade with an active group of people developing addons for it, to a Windows Live scenario with an iPod paid application download system for addons and the like.

Very possibly all nonsense, but again I’d be interested to hear opinions from your own perspectives.

The Facts Emerge - The future of MS Flight Simulation
Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2009 - 20:01

There has been a lot of speculation, rumor and simple guesses as to what Microsoft is going to do with the Flight Simulator “enterprise”. Through a number of sources, some of whom are former ACES members, we have been able to get to the bottom of where our hobby is heading, at least as far as Microsoft is concerned. Our sources will remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. Here are the hard, cold, and very disappointing facts:

FACT: Microsoft Flight Simulator for the PC is dead. There are no plans to continue the FS series in a form that we would recognize. The wholesale dispatch of the ACES team speaks volumes to this.

FACT: ESP is dead. Boeing, Raytheon and presumably Northrop Grumman (ESP’s first adopters) received notification that the ESP franchise is done and that, in effect, they are on their own. We have seen some discussion putting hope in the emergence of ESP as the next “engine” for flight simulator. That is not going to happen.

FACT: Some developers in our hobby approached Microsoft to purchase the MSFX code. Microsoft rebuffed that offer in total. We presume that this is because having the FSX code out there would “diffuse” their future intent and model for a flight simulator “replacement”.

What is Microsoft’s future intent as regards flight simulation? Simple really… Create a flight simulation system for Windows Live, and sell applications for it much like Apple does for their IPhone / Ipod family. Third party developers will have to submit their applications, as do Apple developers, for approval by MS and they in turn would earn a percentage from the sales of those applications. Vendors that we have talked to are extremely upset about this. It also brings back memories of the infamous Papa Tango attempts to hijack freeware.

Imagine for a moment a “live” simulator that has as its core a “Flight Unlimited” like virtual world. You can fly around a very small part of the world in the default system, but to add to your simulation world, you have to purchase the additional scenery from MS. You want more than a 172, a Baron, or a 737? Simple, purchase it via the Live system.

Imagine for a moment the availability of liveries that would be made available. Without approval by the airlines, you can imagine the lack of variety in the “live” modeled aircraft. Under the present arrangement, freeware is seen as free advertising for the United’s, American’s, Lufthansa’s and others of the world. Insert the dollar into the equation, and it is reasonable to expect that our current arrangement with carriers would evaporate. Would MS consider providing freeware via its live system? Don’t hold your breath – too many liability concerns, copyright infringement risks, product support and management issues to take on for free.

What about VATSIM, IVAO and the plethora of other peripheral attractions that we now benefit from? Imagine paying to connect to VATSIM for an hour or two of supervised flight. Spend some time thinking about the ramifications of this, and it only gets scarier.

We have a simple new reality to face up to; Microsoft has changed their business model as regards the flight simulation genre and we are seeing the first steps of that new model taking hold. We can assume that a “live” version will entail online subscription costs per month or year, and additional add-on’s will cost us.
Note - I’d link directly to the post itself, but avsim just isn’t built like that for some reason. Search down the page for February 8 if you want to find it.

Actually, probably a lot more are here than you think. That is very disappointing news though. As much as I hope it isn’t true, it wouldn’t make much sense for MS to lay off the whole team, and then try to develop a PC flight sim somewhere else. The article is prob right. We might see another flight sim in some capacity from MS, but for all purposes it is dead on the PC.

So… plane armor?

That actually sounds like a really cool way to continue the franchise. I’ll admit I’ve never even seen the game let alone played it, but I’ve always wanted to have a computer that could run with it in the Google Earth mods and whatnot.

If they make it on the 360 and set it in space and have combat against cat aliens, I’ll totally buy it.

So, the first step towards some kind of microtransaction based revenue stream for flight simulators is to fire the team that makes the flight simulator? They probably got the chop under whatever executive initiative axed Ensemble: somebody decided the return on investment was too low, and they wanted to free up money for something else.

Sounds like bullshit to me. Why would they base your microtransactions system on a flightsim, of all things? Talk about your niche products, right up there with turn-based hexed historical wargames. And why would they fire the only team that knows how to make flightsims to do it? Nah. They’re just getting out of the flightsim business.

Just think of the possibilities for a microtransaction-based hex wargame! They could charge you a nickel a hex. And there are a whole lot of hexes.

But yeah, I agree with you. This is just somebody with a serious lack of perspective of the importance of flight sims to Microsoft.

This is correct, imo. It seems like the rest of this article is speculation from the frame of reference of a flight sim enthusiast who can’t imagine a world without Flight Sim, and who spins the arrangement into some kind of corporate double-speak for a shift to microtransactions, which would save the franchise.

So what exactly is the importance of flight sims to Microsoft? Is it even a drop in the corporate bucket? Is it anything beyond a PC game franchise?

I can see an argument for MS wanting to get a piece of rather large flight sim addon market (I’ve spent easily 5 times the price I paid for FS2004 on addon’s), but shutting down the team behind the core engine wouldn’t be the correct way to go about that.

I think that’s what he’s saying.

Why charge per hex when you can charge per side? 6 times the transactions! And they could charge double for the top side, and everyone will pay because who wants to have a bunch of hexes with no tops?

Historical, no, and no.

It’s not a large market at all, not by Microsoft standards.

World of Flightcraft

It’s not large by any standards. More people have posted in this thread than play flight sims.

This thread title is misleading. I entered looking for facts, and all I got was speculation so ridiculous it’d make a Truther blush. I am shitting my shirt with rage right now.

If true, I like it how Microsoft burned their bridges with 3 major defense contractors on what seems like a very lucrative business.