Just announced by Microsoft at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019 (E3 2019) is their new flight simulator package set for release in 2020 for both PC and Xbox.
We weren't expecting this announcement - given the history of Microsoft's attempts to revise their historic Microsoft Flight Simulator package (aka Microsoft Flight).
This is a developing story so be sure to bookmark this page - it will be updated regularly with more information as and when it becomes available.
The announcement was made via a YouTube video previewing the new sim. At first, we thought it was a hoax (like our 2014 April fools joke) however the video is verified and has been released on Microsoft's official Xbox YouTube channel.
You can jump to the individual sections of this article using the links below:
- The Announcement
- Our Analysis
- What About Those Add-ons?
- UPDATE June 2019: The Next Generation Of Flight Simulation, “For You, With You!”
- What do You Think?
Not much information as of yet (at least official information) but it appears from the YouTube description that we can expect the new simulator to be released some time in 2020. While the video and artwork scream Xbox, we should also be able to see it released on Windows using the Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass games are cross-platform compatible so can be used on both Windows and Xbox with a subscription to the service (which we believe is monthly).
Microsoft announces the new version to be, "the next generation of one of the most beloved simulation franchises". They also mention you can fly, "light planes to wide-body jets". Out of the box they also mention that it will be an open world and you can "fly anywhere on the planet".
Firstly, it appears Microsoft have dropped all dates, names and years from this new sim. It seems to be officially called, "Microsoft Flight Simulator" - perhaps indicating an evergreen platform that will continue to be developed over the years (version-less). I suppose the community will lovingly call it MSFS or FS11, FS20 or something similar.
From what we can see the entire engine is brand new. Microsoft sold the rights to their older platform to various companies over the years (Dovetail Games, Lockheed Martin, etc.) The detailing and 3D modeling, lighting effects and textures on display in the video below is something we have never seen in a simulation platform as of yet - it gives X-Plane a run for its money (and more).
Despite some initial confusion regarding the exactly which platforms the new software will be available on, it would appear that the content is indeed likely to be available on both PC and Xbox. As we will examine below in a moment, however, PC users will need to sign up to the Xbox Insider Program if they wish to enjoy previews and even take part in testing of the software.
It would also appear that the platform will work with other developers to provide third-party add-ons, just like we do today with FSX and X-Plane. The initial noises Microsoft are making suggest they are keen to work with the community to get this one right time, as we will also discuss below.
The screenshots and the video below show next-generation graphics - for the first time bringing a new simulator up to the same level as most new games. We can see highly detailed clouds, terrain, and photorealistic water and ground textures. It makes me wonder though - how can we improve on this with third-party add-ons? If it's this good out of the box, where do we go next?
What About Those Add-Ons?
Well, this is a tough subject and nobody has much information regarding add-ons at the moment. Given the history of Microsoft Flight, we can only anticipate it to be a closed platform system i.e. Microsoft sell the add-ons directly from within the app or online store. Having said that, it's possible they learned a hard lesson from the Flight flop and have considered third-party add-ons including both freeware and payware.
What about the thousands of add-ons already available for FSX? Will they be compatible with the new version? This is highly unlikely as it appears this release is running an entirely new engine. We know this because Microsoft relinquished the rights to their older platform which FSX was written on. Anyway, could you imagine an old FSX add-on running in this new platform - the models and textures would look out of place in such a modern system.
With all fingers crossed, Microsoft will hopefully release an SDK and allow users to play around with files/structure just as they have with all versions of their previous simulators. This would enable both freeware and payware developers to continue their work (and when it comes to payware their living).
Stay tuned re. add-ons - we will have more information published shortly.
UPDATE June 2019: The Next Generation Of Flight Simulation, “For You, With You!”
A ninety-second video trailer by the Microsoft Flight Simulator team at a recent Microsoft Keynote presentation has seemingly lit the blue touch paper for what promises to be an explosive reception of the greatly anticipated, cross-platform simulator package for both Xbox and PC.
That is certainly what the Microsoft Flight Simulation team are hoping as they addressed their fan base and customers in a recent statement release, which among other things thanked them for their past loyalty, not least in the face of their “previous missteps” in recent years. In short, there could be serious consequences for the developers should this new release prove to be another misstep.
If the trailer and information already in the public arena is anything to go by, though, that doesn’t seem to be likely. Indeed, it would appear many of the features incorporated into this upcoming release come from feedback directly from their customer base. In their words:
“We hear you, we value you, we want to make the next generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator for you, with you!”
Tall words, no doubt, but ones that are likely to be genuine, as well as laying the groundwork and foundations for what appears to be a genuinely masterful release.
Support Of Third Party Content
Not only is this new and highly anticipated release going to be available for the PC and Xbox, but the software will also support third-party content, which was one of the main “concerns of the current eco-system”. This last detail appears to be one that is a process very much in motion and with additional add-ons in time.
It's still unknown whether third-party content will have to be delivered/installed within the actual software itself (internal marketplace) or whether users will still be able to download from sites like ours, FlightSim.com, Avsim.com etc using their file libraries. Of course, the entire flight sim community resides on these sites so cutting third-party content provided by an external source would be essentially blocking the community from doing what it has done for years with FSX - diversity.
And that does not mention Payware content - sites like SimMarket, FSPilotShop, SimShack, and FlightSimStore, for example, all provide payware third-party content externally.
Furthermore, the input and feedback from the Microsoft Flight Simulation community is likely to be an ongoing process, with an apparent regular “back-and-forth” between developers and the end users – you guys. The first of these updates is set for early-August.
According to their recent press release, this is just “the first step in an adventure” that will involve both the developer and the consumer.
These plans and changes in programming are to be released regularly throughout the year to those who part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator Insider Program, which is where we will be stopping next.
The Insider Program – Keeping The User At The Heart Of The Development
So, why should you make sure you are part of the Insider Program? In short, aside from the regular updates you will receive there is also the potential, as previously mentioned, to continue to put across your opinion regarding the upcoming software, as well as any other issues, concerns, and recommendations you might have regarding the wider flight simulation community. In short, it is your opportunity to stay informed and have your say.
As their guide states:
“As an insider you will have the opportunity to provide feedback and insights that help shape and inform current franchise initiatives and the future of Microsoft Flight Simulator!”
In more detail, then, what can you enjoy by signing up for the program. Among other things, access to private, members-only forums where you can discuss the weekly newsletter you will receive with other members.
Members will also receive regular short surveys, which will perhaps not only serve as an opportunity to get your thoughts and opinions directly to the developers but will also, on occasion, provide you with the thought process of the developers, and even hints of upcoming features. You will certainly be provided with a peek into the upcoming programs with the opportunity to take part in “Technical Alpha and Beta tests of in-progress Microsoft Flight Simulator releases”.
Most of these Alpha/Beta tests will revolve around features and facilities already mentioned by the Flight Simulator community as important, and so will develop with as much input as possible from the end user. And while not everyone will be able to take part in each one – for example, should you be chosen on one time, chances are, other users will be chosen the next time.
Feedback That Will Be Taken And Actioned Seriously
This is seen as a “critical step” by the developers and is very likely to continue well into the development and even the release of the program. And the genuine goal of the developer team is to ensure that “everyone participates” at some level or stage of the program.
What’s more, upon signing up, based on the data and details you provide, the developers will be better able to match you to a specific part of the program that best suits you. And make no mistake, the experience and feedback you give will not only be taken extremely seriously as the final developments are made, but it will also most likely be acted upon one way or another. This is just another example, and genuine attempt, to keep the product users at the heart of the upcoming release.
For those who have an interest in this upcoming release – which is most likely, the vast majority of those reading this – it is well worth five minutes of your time signing up for the Insider Program. Especially if you know you are going to purchase the product upon release.
There are, however, some specifics to keep in mind and small print to double check.
A Few Things To Consider
First of all, you will need to have a Microsoft account, which while most of you will almost certainly already have, you can click here to sign up for one. Doing so is easy, free, and quick.
You will also need to be a member of the Xbox Insider Program, as it through this where information and content will be delivered. Members are instructed to install the insider app on their PC. You can look at doing that by clicking here.
One more thing to mention, all users of the Insider Program must be 18 years or over to participate due to the legal requirements surrounding permissions on the use of personal data.
Providing you meet the above requirements, and assuming you wish to be a part of what might be one of the most exciting and anticipated releases for the flight simulation community for some time, you might wish to hurry over and sign up as soon as you have finished reading this article.
Below are some of the official preview screenshots. Click on the image to see a larger version.
What do you think?
As you are well aware, this is a massive announcement for the flight sim community. What will the future hold? What features would you like to see included? What could be improved from their last release? What are your opinions in general? Please post in the comments section below.
Finally, worth noting - Microsoft is taking feedback from users already in the form of their "Insider" program. If you're interested in signing up, you can do so here.