There are many reasons why the user community of Microsoft Flight Simulator or just about any major gaming title (simulation or otherwise) should participate in the various beta or early adopter updates released from time to time. While in a perfect world, the developer behind any gaming title should have the resources to perform system testing to rule out major issues, the hard truth is most do not and there’s almost no way for any developer to test all the possible scenarios including hardware configurations and 3rd party add-ons/mods which all can and mostly likely will have an impact in the finished product. In actuality, the developer (in this case Microsoft/Asobo) will perform their very best due diligence to ensure the update performs on a few different hardware configurations and generally leaves it up to 3rd party developers and mod creators to “shoe horn” their add-ons around what they’ve been provided. So our participation in these beta programs (especially when feedback is sent back to the developer) is instrumental in the overall wellbeing of the gaming title.
Generally speaking, most 3rd party developers will participate in the beta programs for obvious reasons. But they do not receive the beta version in advance of the general public. In other words, 3rd party developers like PMDG and Fenix only have access to the beta when it’s been made available to all of us. The 3rd party devs will utilize the time between when the beta is released and it becomes GA (General Availability) to work out any issues with their add-on. Of course in many situations this all becomes a fast moving target as there may be many iterations of the beta. The time a 3rd party developer spends adjusting their add-on to function correctly with the beta could become a complete waste of time as changes are made and pushed out during the beta cycle. In other words, in some cases the only way of truly knowing if a 3rd party add-on is going to work is to wait until the beta has become GA and been released to the entire community.
Over the years, I’ve participated in many beta programs for all sorts of gaming titles. Some have been positive, wonderful experiences of being able to gain access to new functionality or performance enhancements before everyone else. But in a few cases these beta experiences have become an absolute nightmare. In many cases the only way to escape the beta is to complete reinstall the current live version. As you can probably imagine this can be an extremely time consuming process.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft/Asobo began their open beta for the upcoming SU11 update and the word on the street is the experience hasn’t been an easy one. Especially with some 3rd party aircraft and live weather. Some 3rd party developers will do their best to provide solutions or workarounds for their products for the beta cycle, but most simply can’t and won’t guarantee functionality on a beta installation. On the bright side, with regards to the SU11 beta, some users have reported experiencing a significant performance improvement from SU10.
If you’re wondering if participating in the MSFS beta program is right for you, I would say it depends. If you mainly fly default aircraft or if you still fly P3D/XPlane then participating in the SU11 beta (or any future beta release) is probably OK for you. However, if MSFS is your sole flight sim platform and you’re an every day flyer of add-on aircraft like the Fenix A320 or the PMDG 737, then I would highly suggest you hold off. Bottom line, if you want full system compatibility between MSFS and 3rd party aircraft, then stay on the current live MSFS build. Otherwise you may be in for a surprise when you attempt to fly your favorite 3rd party aircraft in the beta build.
As always, thanks for reading.