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Microsoft's  Flight Simulator  revival operates as free-to-play
Microsoft's Flight Simulator revival operates as free-to-play
January 4, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Microsoft Flight, the latest entry from the popular and long-running Flight Simulator series for Windows, will feature a new free-to-play business model when it releases in spring.

This new release is not only the first Flight Simulator game in five years but also the first one in the series to adopt the free-to-play approach. Microsoft Flight will feature a store for purchasing and downloading extra content like new aircraft, regions, and customization options.

The microtransaction-based, free-to-play model has brought new life to several dormant franchises in recent years, like Shadowrun, Ultima, and Shenmue. Microsoft recently released a free-to-play edition for another one of its PC series, Age of Empires, in November 2011.

Microsoft's immersive but complex Flight Simulator franchise, which has developed a dedicated following over the last 30 years, seemed in trouble when the publisher closed ACES Game Studio, its development house for the titles, in 2009 to "align [its] people against [its] highest priorities."

The company announced Microsoft Flight last year, however, as an internally developed continuation of the series that takes place in Hawaii. It's designed to be more approachable to novice players, and to introduce "a new perspective to the long-standing genre."

"Aviation can be incredibly technical, but we've taken great care to build an experience that makes taking to the skies thrilling and accessible for everyone," says Microsoft Flight's executive producer Joshua Howard.

Along with its marketplace for buying additional content, Microsoft Flight features heavy integration for Games for Windows Live for updates (e.g. daily challenges), achievements, and playing with others.

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Alex Leighton
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So I guess that means no mods or 3rd party content this time around. Dang.

Maurício Gomes
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That is bad... For example, the creator of Kerbal Space Program (co-student of mine btw), started by doing mods of Flight Simulator (he is famous for doing a very realistic and detailed 737 or something like that), after he figured that you had to manually code the physics, he decided to make a game where you add parts and the game figure the physics on its own...

The result is Kerbal Space Program (and I saw the design in a black board, and I thought he was nuts and would never make it... Happily I was wrong)

Ian Bogost
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I hope the available microtransactions includes jet fuel, with prices tied to global oil futures.

Kris Graft
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R Hawley
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Kerbal Space Program was one of my favourite games of last year. I got some pilots playing that one. It's a really fun toy.

There will be alternatives to "Flight" which do offer a more open platform, the market will go where it wants. No surprise that Microsoft decided it wanted a piece of the pie from all the thousands of talented enthusiast that gave up their time to expand their IP all these years. Now they are simply taking something back....oh wait. It's a bit poo when said like that.

On the positive side there's something to be said for providing a nice clean easy to use customer experience akin to the Apple store for MS Flight Simulator. Fragmented protection systems and nightmare re-install scenarios when one add-on goes wrong which breaks the whole setup could be a thing of the past.

One problem though, Windows Live. It's horrible to use.