January 25, 2009

Microsoft Cancels Flight Simulator

The people that developed the world’s oldest and most successful flight simulator franchise abruptly lost their jobs this week. Microsoft cut the entire flight simulator game development staff (Aces Studio) in layoffs that will leave 5000 employees jobless over the next 18 months. More about the layoffs here and here.

We extend our encouragement to those talented people that put so much creativity and effort into this software and brought fun and learning to so many pilots and would-be pilots all over the world.
So now what? We would hope that our fallen comrades at the Aces Studio are looking ahead with optimism. Many comments on various flight sim forums and blogs are gloomy and short-sided. Some readers assume this is the end of the hobby. They’re wrong. Man has been fascinated with flight for at least 5000 years, according to Egyptian hieroglyphs. The fascination will live and so will this hobby.

I imagine that many of the energetic and clever former Microsoft employees will continue to be energetic and clever for someone else, or go into business for themselves creating excellent add-ons for flight simulator. The add-on industry for flight simulator is huge. Many companies build excellent aircraft that the purchaser downloads and installs into their existing flight simulator program.

Aircraft are not the only add-ons for flight simulator. Other ex-Microsoft employees may work to develop enhanced ground scenery, water textures, roads, bridges, animation, improved flight dynamics and improved Artificial Intelligence traffic in the air and on the ground.
Others may script new elaborate missions and multi-player competitions.

How many more great add-ons will be available as freeware in the future as ex-developers become part of the flight sim fan base? How will the Virtual Airlines benefit?

FSX will still be a hearty piece of software for a long time. Let’s not forget that most of us do not have fast enough computers to run FSX in its full glory will all the options turned on and detail sliders at maximum. Mark Avey has some great observations about this.

This is not the end of Flight Simulator. I believe it is a de-centralization of its continued evolution. The Aces Studio developers still love Flight Simulator as much as we do, but now they’ve joined the fan base. The gene pool of flight sim enthusiasts just got richer.

~Matt Thomas

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