See you later, Flight Simulator

January 26, 2009

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.”(Photo: Gamespot)Writing and reporting by Edwin Chan

7 comments

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this is sad. microsoft, instead of cutting, they should be fixing. they should be on forums listening to what people have to say about the flight sim, vista. there is no customer support for the sim. it can get very frustrating. that is why ms is on the very much dislike list. i have been flying the sims since 1987. now i have fsx on a decent machine, still has quirks. i use xp, i hear too many problems with vista. i will never upgrade. i use ms only because of the sim. otherwise i use linux. i hope that if they do make another sim, it will be compatible with xp. as i will not pay for another os from ms, never. ms needs to listen to what the customer wants and needs.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

I believe X-Plane is compatible with Linux. X-Plane from what I have heard is a good flight sim. Some people prefer it over MS Flight sim.

Posted by rv65 | Report as abusive

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Deeply, deeply saddened. This is not only a sad day for the software community, but a sad day for the aviation community as well. MS Flight Simulator is what ultimately made me go get my private pilots license. It has taught me so much that I am at a loss of words to express the my grief. Not a lot of people know that it was, until yesterday the longest running software title ever (even beating Windows).

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sad.. and says a lot about how the world, and especially the US has become more and more oriented toward instant gratification.I’m greatly indebted to their series.. which taught me critical thinking skills and more as I grew with it. So satisfying and educational. Kids today want nothing but instant payoff and could care less about challenging realism. Gran Tourismo may be an acception, but it’s still no flight sim in complexity.I wish it were the 90′s, when sims were all over the shelves…

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

This is great news! It is about time games like these are extinguished once and for all. This game should have never came out in the first place, all this game is was a training aid for terrorists, and look what happened. Regular people do not need to know how to fly or “simulate” commercial airline flights, this is best left to professionals. I am surprised major airlines haven’t sued Microsoft for logo infringement.We will be much better off now that this “game” is gone.

Posted by Joyce Goldenblatt | Report as abusive

Cannot belive what i am reading i am about to embark on building a 737 throttle for my sim ‘ i hope i can finish it , i have heard that aerosoft is designing their own compatable platform, hope that this is true.

Posted by stuart | Report as abusive

As a private pilot I am sad this product is coming to an end. I used it for instrument practice, my sons have both used it and one of them has learnt a great deal about flying from it.However, Micro$oft have only got themselves to blame. The product was flimsy and flakey. It crashed easily. You could crash it simply by loading a ‘dodgy’ 3rd party aircraft model into it – something which should never be possible. I totally lost a hard drive in a high-end PC which I specially built for FSX, due to one such crash.It was obvious that after the initial release, M$ never did any bug fixes. The v1.000 release stayed, no matter how much it crashed, for the next few years. This is not acceptable for a product produced by such a big company.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive