The announcement came during an event that took place on December 13th, 2011, which was only published on January 4th this year by gaming web sites such as Fly Away Simulations.
The title was always known to be aimed at introducing a gentler learning curve to the formidable flight simulator market, but the biggest change that was announced is how the new title will be a free-to-play game supported by microtransactions through Games for Windows LIVE.
Initially, the title will only have the Icon A5 light aircraft available to the player. The Boeing Stearman N25 traditional biplane is also available as a free download from the Windows LIVE Marketplace on launch day.
The game also sports mouse controls for those that don’t have a joystick peripheral available. The engine will now be optimized to be GPU-heavy rather than focused on raw CPU power like in previous Microsoft flight simulators. This lets Microsoft’s dev team incorporate new shading and lighting effects.
Flight will continue Microsoft Flight Simulator X‘s more structured mission levels alongside the traditional free flight, but the biggest change has been the announcement that the only place to fly that will be available at launch will be Hawaii compared to the whole world in previous titles. Also, there will be no software development kit, which removes the possibility of user or third-party generated content.
Analysis: While I’m reserving the majority of my opinion for an upcoming blog post, imagine this scenario:
After the massive success of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda announce that the next Elder Scrolls, Elder Scrolls VI: Black Marsh is already in development and will be released as a free to play game. However only the city of Helstorm will be included, and Iron Weapons and Leather armour will be available. To unlock additional areas and weapons, players must pay for DLC to get them. In addition, all mod support will be unavailable.
Pretty bad scenario, right? This is basically what Microsoft is doing. The MS Flight simulator series was one of the most modded PC titles in existence and even had third-party paid downloads. I know that, by making the title more appealing to the masses, Microsoft is trying to make the flight simulator series more profitable as the fandom for sim games is admittedly small. However, does a casual flight sim fan exist? Is there enough interest in the mainstream for such a flight tile? Wouldn’t most casual fans of aviations simply go to arcade flight games like Ace Combat and Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.?
I just believe that Microsoft is looking for a target market that doesn’t exist.