Feeds

Microsoft revives flight sim by giving it away free

One of Redmond’s longest-running lines gets reboot

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Microsoft has said that it will be reviving its Flight Simulator franchise this spring with a free version of the game entitled simply Flight.

Redmond is making the game available in a private beta at present, but plans to release it as a free download eventually. The game needs a minimum of 10GB of hard drive space, a dual-core 2Ghz processor, Windows XP SP3 and 2GB of RAM, according to the video trailer. Initially Flight will only have one plane – the ICON A5 flying boat - but Windows Live users will get access to extra missions and plane types if they sign in.

“Many people dream of flying, but few have the chance to experience the fun of exploring the world from above. Microsoft Flight provides players the opportunity to explore that curiosity and interest,” said Joshua Howard, executive producer of Microsoft Flight in a canned statement. “Aviation can be incredibly technical, but we’ve taken great care to build an experience that makes taking to the skies thrilling and accessible for everyone.”

Microsoft’s flight simulator arm is one of its longest running software franchises, and the first version was released in 1982 – years before Windows saw the light of day. The game was originally bought in from subLOGIC, rumour has it because Bill Gates was a huge simulator fan and wanted one of his own, but the game attracted a small but devoted following. It was also very handy for checking compatibility on PC clones, which was where this El Reg hack first found it in 1987.

Microsoft developed the platform, adding 3D in the third version and developing a growing following, both among gamers and amateur plane enthusiasts. It was to that latter group that the game increasingly addressed, adding more and fans were willing to pay silly money for the ultimate rig.

By its tenth iteration with Flight Simulator X in 2006, the game was using simulations of 24,000 airports, with 24 planes to choose from on the high-end version. Its success also spawned other Microsoft simulators, including the late and unlamented Train Simulator – which was even more boring than it sounds. Companies like Just Flight grew up to provide add-ons to the game, including a memorable Space Shuttle sim, and virtual airlines sprung up in the community.

But in 2009, with the economy tanking and shareholders asking increasing questions about fixed costs, Microsoft axed the ACES Studio and the 150 developers working on the code. But this left a large group of commercial and private software developers out on a limb. For them, Flight’s announcement probably isn’t good news.

From the trailer the new game, set on the Hawaiian Islands, is going to be much more like an airborne Grand Theft Auto, just without the blood and guts. It shows pilots flying for awards and bonus features, rather than handling accurate wind shear or experiencing the exact layout of Lihue Airport. Worse still, the game is designed to be played with a keyboard and mouse.

Purists may not approve, but the move will almost certainly give the game a huge new user base, thanks to the free model. It looks likely that Microsoft will either sell upgrades, aping Zynga’s business model, and/or come to a deal with the existing developer base for a level of compatibility - in exchange for a 30 per cent cut of the take. Significantly, Microsoft made no mention of a software developer kit with the initial announcement.

More details will be released at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (potentially Microsoft’s swan dive at CES) and no doubt many Microserfs are frantically beavering away to get the code up to snuff. They may not avoid bluescreens, but the company’s stand will no doubt be full of people looking to check out the new code. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really
Windows NEIN skipped, tech preview due out on Wednesday
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
'Google is NOT the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim'
Plus: 'Pretty sure iOS 8.0.2 will just turn the iPhone into a fax machine'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.