I always appreciate when a developer outlines their vision for a product and what the various constraints of that product are. Several days ago, Mathijs Kok from Aerosoft, put up a big post on their development thread detailing what their plans are for their Twin Otter project for Microsoft Flight Simulator. It’s fascinating, it’s interesting and I think their vision is a pragmatic one. Of course, not everyone will agree but I hope even if you don’t that this insight into the behind the scenes is valuable. Read on and find out!
Price ranges and other constraints
Straight up, Mathijs explains something fundamental about building aircraft for flight simulation. They are built to price points and that price point determines the kind of effort that goes into a project with $25 USD and $50 USD price points used as a kind of illustration. Aerosoft plans to release the Twin Otter as a $25 product.
Mathijs explains that while the $50 products like their CRJ and forthcoming Airbus products get a lot of attention, it’s actually their $25 products that get the vast majority of the sales. And here I feel there is a disconnect between the aircraft that are heralded as the best in the business and the ones that everyone actually owns. It’s interesting to consider and a viewpoint into the actual business of building these aircraft – one that Mathijs and Aerosoft have considerable experience with over decades in this market.
So what does that mean for the Twin Otter?
Priced and features
Although Aerosoft aren’t confirming the price just yet, it seems like the Twin Otter will be in that $25 price point area although they may end up offering it for $29. And that seems fair given what we’ve also learned about the content. The product will come with 3 base versions and modifications such as normal wheels, tundra wheels, floats, amphibian, and ski, with Aerosoft reporting that many of those will come in cargo and passenger variations.
Another key decision has come out. The Twin Otter will not use custom avionics but will instead make use of the default ones available from Asobo. There are a couple of reasons for this and the first is price which stays in that $25 range by making use of the Garmin avionics systems available in the sim rather than bringing them out of the sim and costing more to develop.
The other reason is Xbox and here Mathijs explains that the Asobo systems will work well on Xbox as a platform while bringing other avionics outside of the sim with custom setups will not or will take a long time to get working correctly. This sidesteps that issue.
In short, a $25 aircraft will sell well on PC and Xbox, offer a good aircraft that can go anywhere, do anything, land on all kinds of different terrains, and be a potentially social aircraft when played on an Xbox and on a big TV.
That doesn’t mean that this won’t be a suitably high end simulation and here I’ll let Mathijs do the talking.
We realized the people who expected a hardcore Twin Otter will now have steam coming out of every orifice, but that is not correct. It is pretty hardcore. In modeling, flightmodel, sounds, effects, instruments, manuals, models, variations and liveries we dare you to find anything that competes in that price level. And keep in mind we did a Twin Otter Extended before, so while we go for a low price, loads of sales model first, who knows when we see the option for a PC only version that offers more depth at a higher price level.Mathijs Kok
Those final lines seem to open the door for a higher end simulation at some point in the future.
My thoughts and release date speculation
I’ve been excited about the Twin Otter for MSFS since Aerosoft announced it. It looks like this will have a lot of value and the news that the avionics will make use of the default systems I actually see as a plus rather than a downside. While the Xbox compatibility is not a chief priority for me as a consumer, it will make a difference in sales and open the door to new customers for Aerosoft and that’s usually a good thing for developers that we want to see keep on going.
The two main reasons why this excites me are that they essentially guarantee that the aircraft will be compatible with the built in MSFS flight planning system and the high likelihood that the aircraft will directly benefit to improvements in those systems over time.
On the first point, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that the CRJ would not benefit from the MSFS flight planning system and that its custom avionics package required either manual FMC programming or importing of a flight plan from an external source. While some may appreciate this, for me it’s a step too far and an optional system withheld. Aerosoft for their part have said that they are investigating adding compatibility and I hope that they do!
On the second point I see continued great things for MSFS as the sim platform grows. The team have brought in developers to work on avionics suites and the G1000 is one of those that is getting a remake that will affect all aircraft with the panels once the work is complete. Will the GNS 530 in the Twin Otter get similar treatment? Very likely is my estimation. As it is, the system is already functional so we’ll have a good enough experience to start.
Release appears to be nearing as Aerosoft are finishing off the last of the variants and preparing the manual. They did project a summer 2021 release and that appears to be on track. Stay tuned for more news on this!
In the meantime, check out the in-development thread on the Aerosoft Forums.