Did the Community Kill Flight Sim World?
At the end of the day, are we to blame? Did we, the flight simulation community play a role in the demise of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World? For the record, while I only spent about 12-15 hours in Flight Sim World and most of these hours were spent playing back in the June/July 2017 timeframe…I have made every effort to keep my eyes and ears open to the news regarding updates, future plans etc. From much of the information I read prior to the announcement FSW would be cancelled, I found both the progress and the direction the game was headed to be mostly favorable. While I personally don’t mind owning early access game titles, I never saw FSW (in its current state) as a viable replacement to Prepar3D which is my flight simulator of choice. But this certainly doesn’t mean it couldn’t at some point became a replacement for P3D.
A Brief History of Flight Simulation
For me to truly do this article justice and hopefully communicate my thoughts appropriately, especially considering the title of this blog post. I would like to briefly share the history of this wonderful hobby. I promise it will be brief…
Really it all goes back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and a game developer called subLOGIC founded by Bruce Artwick. The first generation subLOGIC Flight Simulator was originally offered for the Apple II (1979) and TRS-80 (1980) computers. The second generation came about in December 1983 (again for the Apple II) and eventually for the Commodore 64 in June of 1984. This was my first experience AND when the passion of flight simulation hit me as a teenager.
In the early 80’s (81-82), Microsoft obtained the license to port the subLOGIC Flight Simulator to IBM compatible PC’s. This would be called Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 and was released in November 1982. I’ve often heard this was at the direction of Bill Gates and this is an important fact to remember as I’ll reference this again later in this article.
Between the release of MSFS 1.0 (1982) and the year 1995, Microsoft released versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 5.1. Between the years of 1996 and 2012, Microsoft released Flight Simulator 95 (mid 1996), Flight Simulator 98 (mid 1997), Flight Simulator 2000 (late 1999), Flight Simulator 2002 (October 2001), Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight (FS9) (July 2003), Flight Simulator X (FSX) (October 2006) and finally Microsoft Flight (February 2012).
The year 2006 is an important year to focus on during our little history lesson. Not only was Microsoft FSX released in 2006, but it was also the same year Bill Gates announced he would transition from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time.
Each of these official Microsoft releases, spanning over 30 years, continued building on the progress from what subLOGIC released in 1979. We can argue that really FSX was the final true simulator Microsoft released….but that is a discussion for another time. The key point I am wanting to make here is between MSFS 1.0 and MS Flight, 30 years of development, 30 years of improvements and simply…30 years of enjoyment passed by.
Remember… THIRTY YEARS!
Before we depart from our walk down memory lane, let me just throw out a few additional dates. In 2009, we learned that Lockheed Martin purchased the IP and source code for Microsoft ESP (commercial use of FSX) and in 2014 we learned that Dovetail Games had a license agreement to distribute FSX Steam Edition and develop further products based on Microsoft’s technology (spanning 30 years) for the entertainment market.
Now Prepare Yourself
When Lockheed Martin released P3D version 1.0, it pretty much was a rebranded FSX. While we can assume LM may have applied some fixes which hadn’t been addressed in the FSX SP2 update, very little was done to the core application. Actually, almost the same can be said for P3D versions 2.x (2013) and even to some extent version 3.x (2015). The major shift didn’t really occur until 2017 when LM released the 64bit version of Prepar3D version 4.x. But let’s now add another 5 years to our original MSFS timeline and we get a total of 35 Years.
Remember… THIRTY-FIVE YEARS!
While we’re still somewhat in our history lesson, let me just remind everyone that X-Plane wasn’t born yesterday or even the day before. Interestingly enough, when researching information for this article, I have found it somewhat difficult to nail down exactly when the first version of X-Plane was released. Even Wikipedia fails to provide any exact dates. I did find one fan created website which identifies X-Plane version 1 with a release date of 1994. X-Plane v2 released in 1996 with v3, v4 and v5 releasing in 1997, 1998 and 1999. X-Plane v6 through versions 10 released between 2001 and 2011.
Even most die-hard X-Plane fans admit that it wasn’t until the current release of X-Plane 11 (May 2017) when X-Plane really began to shine. So if we calculate the amount of time in years for X-Plane we have 23 years between X-Plane v1 and the current version 11. 23 Years!
Are we responsible?
Yes, I believe so and here’s why. I’ve just spelled out 35 years of blood, sweat and tears which have passed by from MSFS version 1.0 and Prepar3D version 4.x. Everything that is wonderful about P3D v4.x is tied back to MSFS 1.0, actually further…but for the sake of this article we’ll start with 1.0. All the goodness, all the beauty, all the awesomeness is THIRTY FIVE YEARS in the making. As I just pointed out, even X-Plane’s development spans over 20 years.
So Dovetail Games comes along and announces they are developing a next generation flight simulator, it’s released (early access) in May of 2017 and less than 1 year later the project is mothballed. Why did this happen? How could this happen?
Some will tell you it was because Dovetail Games refused to listen to the flight simulation community. Not true! There is evidence (lots of it actually) that this couldn’t be further from the truth. We the community asked Dovetail Games to include missions. Dovetail Games did just that. We the community asked DTG to include jetliners and DTG was working on adding jetliners. We the community asked DTG to include helicopters and DTG was also working on adding helicopters. Many more examples of DTG actually listening to the community.
In addition, some in the community were led to believe that DTG were forcing 3rd party developers to market their add-ons exclusively through Steam. This has also been proven to be false. At the time I wrote this piece, I could purchase add-ons for FSW directly from any of my preferred online retail stores. For the sake of full disclosure, I checked both JustFlight and The FlightSim Store. Both online retail stores have add-ons available to purchase for FSW.
In the end I believe that we the flight sim community killed Flight Sim World and that my friends is a bad, bad thing. The reality of it all is we have two major players now representing the flight sim community. There are a few other titles which have been around for a number of years but I don’t see a lot of 3rd party development support available at the present time. I think AeroflyFS is gaining some momentum. Orbx has a few add-on airports for the platform and I believe a few add-on aircraft have been developed by Just Flight.
I know this blog post will be viewed by some as controversial. Many will agree with me and many will not. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. We all share a passion for flight simulation and we’re all striving to have a platform that will not only be around for many years to come, but also striving for a platform that can help introduce this wonderful hobby to the next generation of virtual pilots. Unfortunately, with Flight Sim World ending the way it has….we’ve potentially shut the door on some of the newcomers and to me this is the saddest part of this story.
Until next time…