The CP's Blog: My Personal Thoughts on Microsoft Flight...

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Michael Acevedo
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The CP's Blog: My Personal Thoughts on Microsoft Flight...

Postby Michael Acevedo » Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:01 am

Good Evening,

First off, I would like to wish you all a Happy and Blessed 2012!

Now, it is very rare that I write publicly about a topic and less about the Flight Simulator community; however the recent news of Microsoft Flight has pushed me to make this personal statement on it. As you may be well aware, Microsoft Flight is the reboot of the venerable Flight Simulator franchise. The project was first announced in August 2010 to the excitement of the Flight Simulator community (myself included). At the time however, I was cautious as information about Flight was very limited and not much was said beyond "that it would make the flight simulator genre more mainstream". As screenshots started appearing in the following months, I was starting to have high hopes of the project; I thought that Flight could become the "Windows 7" of Flight Simulator X (referred by some flight simmers as Flight Simulator Vista, due to its performance issues on some computers) or a more refined version of it. However, I started noticing something very unsettling about the deluge of screenshots that started appearing in 2011. The uneasiness came from the fact that all of the screenshots were showcasing only one geographical area of the world: the big island of Hawaii.

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That simple fact made me wonder why they would be only showcasing a single geographical area. I did remember that when Microsoft was promoting both FS9 and FSX they had screenshots of multiple areas such as Hong Kong, Seattle, Chicago, and others. I thought that the only reasonable explanation was that Flight would not be a global flight simulator. Although, I am more of a all-in-one guy, still I considered this approach to be nice. I said to my self "face it, how many times have you flown to China?, Australia?, or even France?" so it was natural to accept this approach. I remember hearing that in part Microsoft Flight Simulator had performance issues because it pre-loaded all sceneries at once when launched, and even some recommended to turn off some scenery areas that weren't used at all.

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Although, I was open to that custom-your-experience approach; nothing prepared me for what Microsoft announced in January of this year when it said that Flight would be free and that add-ons, expansion packs, and new airplanes would only be sold through the Microsoft Store. Even further, Microsoft said that there were no plans to release an SDK for third-party developers. This announcement shocked me as I came to realize that this vendor exclusive add-on business model would certainly be the end of third-party freeware and payware for the FS Community. Very much Microsoft said to the third-party add-on developer community that Flight was a closed ecosystem, and that the current Flight Simulator X was the end of the line for them. In my view, what made the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise successful was the breath of innovation brought by many third-party developers that in a way gave the community the opportunity to select from a vast product pool to customize their Flight Simulator experience to their liking. Therefore, I rejected Microsoft's current approach with Flight.

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Off course, the announcement send shocks through the FS World and developers, players, and long-time Flight Simulator enthusiasts have voiced either their anger, concerns, ill-wishing, or dislike of Microsoft pursued business model for Flight. Even PMDG has publicly stated that due to the restrictions imposed by Microsoft and the incredible amount of resource undertaking required to upgrade to the new Flight development platform, they have scraped any plans to develop for Flight and now are considering the X-Plane 10 platform for future releases. It is clear that this decision by PMDG (being one of the leaders in the FS add-on community) it is not difficult to see that other developers such as Aerosoft, OrbX, and others will contemplate or already follow PMDG's lead. It is now a real possibility that in the future, as FSX gets older (which will turn 10 in 2016) and X-Plane becomes a more refined sim, that the community will start moving on to the X-Plane platform, and Flight will be much ignored by developers. This means that indeed, the end of the add-on Microsoft Flight Simulator Community is now a reality; and we will see that the add-on availability for FSX will dwindle as we get closer to FSX's 10 year mark. You may say, "its not going to happen..." but I say it will, just ask this question, does Microsoft currently develop programs for Windows XP? or Windows 2000? Are third-party developers moving on to other more modern platforms? All of these have something in common, as soon as these program codes reached their 10 year mark, they started fading into oblivion.

As to why Microsoft decided to choose a closed ecosystem for Flight there are several reasons. The first one is profits, if Microsoft develops the add-ons and then sell them, they will make a 100% profit on their sales, even after they sell the simulator to the user. Under the former Flight Simulator franchise model, the only profit MS ever made was the actual sale of the Flight Simulator software and its expansion packs, after that people would go to the third-part payware developers to customize their FS experience. As a result, Microsoft was losing potential profits from this model. Apple, has been very successful with this application vending approach on both the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store where Apple gets a 30% cut of app sell price, so it is logical that companies such as Microsoft are motivated to adopt this approach. The second is control, by controlling the software Microsoft can curb down on support costs, and decrease the chance of exploits, compatibility problems, and oher problems (did I mention piracy???).

Well with this I finish my thoughts on Microsoft Flight. However, this should not deter any of our members to either boycott or reject Flight all together. I personally signed up for the BETA to see what this program has to offer. Who knows? maybe the pressure from the FS community might make Microsoft open up its ecosystem for third-party developers who will sell their add-ons via the Microsoft Store and pursuit a similar model to the successful Apple App Stores and perhaps, change the current faith of the Microsoft Flight franchise and community.

Feel free to post your comments and responses by replying this topic!
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