After ACES studio was closed in 2009, nearly three decades of Microsoft supplying players with a means of flight simulation came to an end. So when Microsoft Flight® and it's free-to-play model came to the table in February of this year, there was a faint light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a current generation flight simulator, with constant support from Microsoft.
It's no surprise that there were a lot of disappointed simmers, seeing as the game was not the sequel to Flight Simulator X which people wanted. Instead, they got a game tailored to be accessible to 'anyone with an interest in aviation', with a closed in-game marketplace, shunning all those with an interest in creating add-ons and free-ware for the rest of the community. Although, at launch, it was not what people were hoping for, a lot of people have invested in downloadable content for Microsoft Flight® in the hope that in the future, content would be released that would eventually build the game up to be what people wanted.
Once again, however, we are back in the dark, as Microsoft's Vancouver studio has canceled production on Microsoft Flight®. Around 35 staff members involved in the production have been laid off, due to positions within the development teams being eliminated. Microsoft have said that “human resources is working with the affected individuals to find new roles within the company." Initial reports that the entire studio had been closed have been clarified and the studio will remain open but operating at a reduced capacity. We wish all the staff involved in the lay-offs the best of luck and a swift, peaceful transition to their next employment.
Microsoft Flight® will still be supported and will remain available for free both through Steam and via it's website. But Microsoft states that all future content, planned or in progress, has been scrapped. A spokesperson for Microsoft released the following statement:
Microsoft Studios is always evaluating its portfolio of products to determine what is best for gamers, families and the company, and this decision was the result of the natural ebb and flow of our portfolio management. Many factors were considered in the difficult decision to stop development on Microsoft Flight® and Project Columbia, but we feel it will help us better align with our long-term goals and development plans. For Microsoft Flight, we will continue to support the community that has embraced the title and the game will still be available to download for free.
Microsoft Studios is invested in British Columbia and still has several teams, both in Vancouver and Victoria, which will continue to produce the best entertainment and gaming experiences possible.
While there is no evidence to suggest that the cease of development is in anyway related to how Microsoft Flight® was received, it does raise the question, would this have happened if they had just made Flight Simulator 11?