Microsoft’s latest partnership series update introduces is to NavBlue, owned by Airbus, that provides navigational information and will be supplying that information to the simulation at and post launch. It gives us a peek at what the simulator might be offering in the future. Let’s have a look at what we know and do a little speculation on what it could mean.
What is NavBlue and how does it fit into MSFS?
The latest partnership information comes to us via a press release rather than a video as we saw with MeteoBlue. There isn’t quite as much density of information for us to parse through we can try and learn as much as possible anyways.
According to the release, Asobo Studios and Microsoft have signed an agreement with NavBlue as of March 2020 to provide data solutions to the new Flight Simulator. The press release plays up a notable feature, the ability to plan and fly all over the world, day and night, in all weather conditions. It also talks about their Navigation+ and Charts+ services.
NAVBLUE will provide real-world aeronautical data to Microsoft through its Navigation+ and, post launch, Charts+ services, to support the realistic experience that is the next generation “Microsoft Flight Simulator” software.
That is followed up by another statement saying that the data will be provided in ARINC424 format – that is notable because it is the international standard format for aircraft navigation. That standardization in both real world and simulation means that we are truly blurring the lines here between the simulation and real world as much as possible. Something that I, as a simulation fan, am absolutely excited about.
Learning about Chats+ and Navigation+
According to the NavBlue website, Navigation+ offers navigational data worldwide and can be used for things like programming your Flight Management Systems (FMS) on your tube-liner or plotting a course in a GA aircraft with any number of Garmin avionics systems. I imagine it will also be used to provide the data that lets you generate those flight plans within Microsoft Flight Simulator in the first place.
Navigation+ is meant to be a launch feature, while Charts+, if we read between the lines, comes later on. Charts+ is a product that provides aeronautical charts. Terminal charts include things like SID and STAR data as well as taxi and terrain information. That also includes things for ETOPS or Extended Operations for long distance flights such as transatlantic flights between North America and Europe – a favourite in many simulators already.
I’m coming at this from the perspective of a relative newbie in this space so I’m going by what I’ve been able to learn in about an hour of browsing Wikipedia and the NavBlue website. If any of you real world pilots want to chime in with extra information or on how this will influence our flight simulator experience, feel free to do so!
Will these features require added subscription fees?
Real world data being fed into Microsoft Flight Simulator sounds like it will be a great thing to see for this simulator and certainly helps cement the simulation aspect that the team has been working hard to achieve. The question that is growing in my mind right now will be how this is supported on an ongoing basis? Will there be subscription fees?
I’m not actually talking about buying and flying the sim at this point. So what do I mean?
The XBox Game Pass is one way to gain access to the sim which is subscription based, however, Microsoft has already stated that you’ll still be able to purchase Flight Simulator without a subscription. That’s consistent with their other products in the XBox and Windows game stores. What I’m about to talk about is above and beyond the base simulation experience.
Money for real world updated data?
I almost wouldn’t blame them if they decided that updates to the data being fed into the simulation would require an extra added subscription. No doubt the licensing deal with companies like NavBlue and MeteoBlue cost large sums of money and I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of profit sharing will go on. Somehow this will need to be supported over the lifetime of the product.
I can see that being fairly easy to swallow for chart information if we’re provided a one-time point-in-time package that will age out of date. That would still mean a great experience for people who want to enjoy the simulation experience and have full chart support. Then, to get the latest information, a subscription gets you the very latest data. Useful for those using MSFS as a training tool for real world flying and not so relevant on the entertainment side of things.
For weather, that approach seems more problematic as real world weather seems more core to the entertainment side of the experience. That said, we’ve seen products in the past offer services such as historical weather data so you can fly during a notable weather event. Or they could also offer weather model support so that you can fly a future state weather model pulled in from GFS or NAM3k data predicting your future flying experience. Again, useful for real world pilots doing training and less needed for the entertainment part of the experience.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft and Asobo Studios balances making real world professional data sources available in the sim on the one side and more causal entertainment based experiences on the other. Microsoft Flight Simulator is clearly aimed at appealing to both sides of this spectrum so we’ll see how they manage it.
We’ll find all of this out in due time, however, until then consider everything above to be highly speculative guessing on what underlying business model might be.
For more info!
For more information and the press release check out the latest information on Flight Simulator’s official website and visit the NavBlue website for the official release.