The Future of Flight Simulator

image Much speculation has followed the closing of the ACES studio at Microsoft and the end of development of the long-running Microsoft Flight Simulator series.

Several recent stories in the tech and gaming press (example here) have quoted a Microsoft representative’s statement about what might happen to the product:

"We are committed to the Flight Simulator franchise, which has proven to be a successful PC-based game for the last 27 years," [Kelda] Rericha added. "You should expect us to continue to invest in enabling great Live experiences on Windows, including flying games, but we have nothing specific to announce at this time."

Like much corporate-speak, Rericha’s statement is a read-into-it-what-you-will horoscope. It’s too early to know if Microsoft will spin-off the code and other assets that it has owned and developed since Microsoft bought the Bruce Artwick Organization in 1996 and brought the product and its core team in-house. Whether another company could or would buy the IP in today’s environment is another open question.

[Update: Microsoft has posted some additional information on the FSInsider Web site.]

image We do, know, however, that the team that produced the product–many of whom had worked on the code, art, databases, and other components that comprise Flight Simulator for 10-15 years (some longer)–has been disbanded. They’re all looking for jobs, and with each passing day it becomes harder to reconstitute that group.

In the meantime, what to make of the statement that Microsoft "will continue to invest in…flying games"?

Note the careful choice of words: "games," not "simulations."

I bet that what will emerge will look something like this, an ironic throwback to early versions of Flight Simulator that included a crop duster and dueling WWI biplanes. Whatever name Microsoft uses to brand any offerings, the company clearly has ended its commitment to rich, deep simulations that put virtual aviators in a realistic pilot seat.

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