In-case you missed it, Microsoft is back in the flight simulator game with a planned launch of Flight Simulator 2020 coming sometime next year. The announcement has certainly caused a lot of discussion in the flight sim community going from zero expectations to setting some cautiously high ones for the series. Here’s the latest!
Updates are focused on visuals for now
The Insiders program and the public releases for Flight Simulator 2020 seem to be mostly featured on what they plan to do with content as well as showing off some of the graphics for the sim. To be fair, Flight Simulator 2020 looks visually spectacular, exceeding expectations of many.
The visuals below show off mountainous and canyon (Grand Canyon) visuals plus some cloud images too. It’s impressive stuff.
Also on the third party site are some videos showing off some short clips of objects in motion. The audio quality, where applicable is good, and the visuals once again remain impressive. On an image of a Cessna Caravan you can see each rivet on the rear stabilizer is lit by the sun at a very low angle. It looks spectacular!
Third party engagement
Microsoft reports that they are currently engaging and exploring the possibility of bringing third party developers into the mix. This is probably a good sign as it means that they intend to build a long term roadmap with third party developers and that hopefully means something that is less a “one and done” and more of a prolonged roadmap over the course of years.
How many jump in and what kind of quality will we see from them? It’s all very hard to know at this point but Microsoft reports that they will let us know how things are going in October.
More speculation than anything right now
With Flight Simulator 2020 I think we’re in an interesting stage. The flight sim community is split on how excited they are with it with plenty of healthy skepticism but a dose of optimism too.
On the one hand, Microsoft is seemingly employing some impressive technology with Azure AI powering some of the visuals while the rest of their graphics engine seems to be doing some incredible stuff. On the other hand their track record and total divestment from the portfolio leaves man fans wondering if that will happen again – especially after Microsoft Flight, a simplified version of Flight Simulator, that came out years ago flopped and consequently was dropped.
Still, Microsoft seems to sense an opportunity and with the changes in technology its possible that this new series could have legs. Digital distribution and an always on service are potentially driving this and that brings up a very important question: Would you pay for a monthly flight simulator experience? And if there’s a third party marketplace where you buy additional aircraft but then lapse on your monthly fee – would you be ok with that? It’s an interesting proposition and one that we don’t know for sure is the case with this product.
Still, many road-signs seem to point that way and so it will be interesting to see how this goes.
What about X-Plane, P3D and FSX?
The other three big titles in the flight sim industry are Flight Simulator X, the old yet still alive flight simulator from Microsoft, Prepar3D by Lockheed Martin and spun off from FSX, and X-Plane which seems to be gathering in momentum and popularity recently.
What effect a fourth entrant will have on the relatively stable configuration of these sims is anyone’s guess. I go back to it but the visuals are a big driver here with most X-Plane 11 forums seemingly filled with posts and images of people chasing the best visual experience for their sim. But that’s not the only thing that will make a sim successful and things like systems fidelity and flight modeling also factor in. So too do other features like flight plans, AI traffic aircraft, weather modeling, and the list goes on.
Just how deep Microsoft goes on this project is anyone’s guess. What kind of effect it has is also a big guess. Sometimes, however, a brief shakeup can really make an impression and push other products ahead. We’ll see what happens!
In the meantime, visit the Microsoft Flight Simulator website for more information.