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Microsoft Flight Simulator gone for now, perhaps for good

Posted on Tue, 27 Jan 2009 03:21:00 GMT
After more than 25 years of flying high near the top of Microsoft’s PC game portfolio, the venerable Flight Simulator franchise has quietly expired.  Perhaps making way for younger, flashier — and far better-selling — productions such as the gargantuan “Halo” series on the Xbox, Microsoft is shutting down ACES studio as part of its biggest-ever wave of layoffs, effectively killing off Flight Simulator for now and perhaps for good.

The gaming world greeted the news with sadness tinged with nostalgia.

Once lauded as the gaming industry’s benchmark for cutting-edge games performance, Flight Simulator was born in the early 1980s and gradually impressed PC afficionados with its heightened realism and groundbreaking graphics. That realism came with a price, as the game never caught on with a mass market that in the 1990s began to hoover up more visceral, faster-moving first-person experiences such as iD’s “Doom” first-person shooter.

Case in point from a casual gamer: I still remember the thrill that coursed through me the day when, after reading a complex series of instructions and numerous tries over several weeks, I finally got my plane off the ground and began coasting around a flat, barren landscape of shifting pixels. About 15 minutes later, I exited the game. I never even tried to land.

Nevertheless, the game — which games site Gamespot.com called “realistic enough to be used for real-life flight training” but “on most systems, at anything other than the lowest of the game’s graphics settings, the simulation has significant performance issues” — commands a devoted following among a niche of hard-core simulation fans.

Partly in an effort to win over more casual gamers, ACES tacked on goal-oriented missions to its last Flight Simulator iteration, such as playing the role of a stunt pilot trying to land on a moving bus or racing a jet-powered truck.

Now, ACES and their game have become a little-noticed casualty of Microsoft’s effort to cut 5,000 jobs to offset slowing growth in the midst of an industry downturn. Will the game ever be resurrected in another form? Is Microsoft shifting its resources toward the hot-selling Xbox, which racked up record sales in the last quarter? The firm is playing its cards close to the vest.

Microsoft “is making adjustments within our business to align our people against our highest priorities, and the closure of Aces Studio is once of those changes. You should expect us to continue to invest in enabling great LIVE experiences on Windows, including flying games, but we have nothing additional to announce around Flight Simulator specifically at this time,” spokeswoman Kelda Rericha said. “Xbox 360 had its biggest year ever and these changes are not directly related to the performance of the business. The realignments of headcount are directly intended to strengthen the Xbox 360 platform, including Games for Windows.”

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Ian Stephens

About Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is a flight simulation enthusiast also with a keen interest in aviation and technology.  Ian spends a lot of his time experimenting with various simulator packages but has a love for Microsoft Flight Simulator X because of the huge selection of add-ons available.  However, Ian also has copies of Prepar3D and X-Plane installed. 

Ian has been writing for Fly Away Simulation for over 9 years.  Should you wish, you can contact Ian via email at ian.stephens@flyawaysimulation.com.

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