It’s been around 24 hours now since the news broke that Aces Studios – the development team behind Microsoft Flight Simulator and the was-to-be-released Train Simulator 2 – had been all but closed down by Microsoft.
The initial reaction was, understandably, shock and sadness.
Sadness that most of the crew at Aces were now having to look for new jobs (having been out of work 2 months now, I can fully sympathise) and sadness that our beloved Flight Sim seems to have been thrown in the bin.
Let’s calm down a little
There was also no small amount of hysteria. Many comments along the lines of “that’s the end of our hobby” and “all the add-on developers will now be out of business” populate the forums.
But, let’s think about this for a moment. Yes, it’s sad that the development team has been shut down (on a personal level for the developers), but do we really need another Microsoft Flight Simulator in the near future? Flight Simulator X was released in 2006. We’re only just now getting to the stage – hardware wise – where we can run the sim at anything like a reasonable level and that’s only for simmers who are prepared to invest big bucks in their systems. I still believe it’ll be another 12-24 months before hardware is powerful and cheap enough to allow almost everyone to run the sim at a level of smoothness and detail that we can run Flight Simulator 2004 at today.
The add-on market
Let’s not forget that we still have Flight Simulator X and Flight Simulator 2004. The announcement of the closure of Aces does not mean our sims have magically been uninstalled from our systems, nor that our installation disks have evaporated into thin air. We still have the simulators. They’re also still in the shops and available from online stores.
The potential customer base for add-on developers is the same today as it was yesterday. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a starting point for most of us, not the final product. We buy all manner of add-ons to increase the fun and realism of that base simulator. Why would we suddenly decide that we’re no longer going to buy any add-ons? If anything, I would’ve thought there was more possibility that we will in fact buy more add-ons. For one thing, we’re no longer in the cycle of “do I buy this add-on now, or wait for the updated one that will be produced when FS11 is released”.
For developers, they now know what the playing field is. They can work on Flight Simulator X and/or Flight Simulator 2004 (I’m concentrating on Microsoft Flight Simulator add-on developers here, for obvious reasons). They don’t have to worry about FS11. They don’t have to worry about buying additional hardware to test their products on when the new version is released. They don’t have to worry about producing and supporting perhaps 3 platforms.
Flight Simulator 2004 was released 5 years ago, yet many of us are still using and enjoying it and many of us are still buying add-ons for it. If FSX only has the same “life” (and who’s to say people won’t still be using FS2004 in another 5 years?), then add-on developers are going to have a good sized customer base for at least another 3 years.
It’s not surprising that the announcement of the closure created such an outcry. I honestly believe this is a huge shot in the foot for Microsoft and they will see the error of their ways sooner or later.
But I also believe this is not the end of our hobby. I don’t believe all the add-on developers will be closing their shops today and going off to find something else to do. I don’t believe all flight simmers will be uninstalling FSX/FS9 from their systems and giving up.
What we’ve got now (FSX and FS9) are good flight simulators. They’re still good, despite the closure of Aces, and we can still have as much fun with them as we always did.
Keep on simming
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