New flight sim

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Microsoft’s new Flight Simulator is a beautiful work in progress

For the last two weeks, I’ve been flying around the world in a preview of Microsoft’s new Flight Simulator. Without a doubt, it’s the most beautiful flight simulator yet, and it’ll make you want to fly low and slow over your favorite cities because — if you pick the right one — every street and house will be there in more detail than you’ve ever seen in a game. Weather effects, day and night cycles, plane models — it all looks amazing. You can’t start it up and not fawn over the graphics.

But the new Flight Simulator is also still very much a work in progress, too, even just a few weeks before the scheduled launch date on August 18. It’s officially still in beta, so there’s still time to fix at least some of the issues I list below. Because Microsoft and Asobo Studios, which was responsible for the development of the simulator, are using Microsoft’s AI tech in Azure to automatically generate much of the scenery based on Microsoft’s Bing Maps data, you’ll find a lot of weirdness in the world. There are taxiway lights in the middle of runways, giant hangars and crew buses at small private fields, cars randomly driving across airports, giant trees growing everywhere (while palms often look like giant sticks), bridges that are either under water or big blocks of black over a river — and there are a lot of sunken boats, too.

When the system works well, it’s absolutely amazing. Cities like Barcelona, Berlin, San Francisco, Seattle, New York and others that are rendered using Microsoft’s photogrammetry method look great — including and maybe especially at night.

Image Credits: Microsoft

The rendering engine on my i7-9700K with an Nvidia 2070 Super graphics card never let the frame rate drop under 30 frames per second (which is perfectly fine for a flight simulator) and usually hovered well over 40, all with the graphics setting pushed up to the maximum and with a 2K resolution.

When things don’t work, though, the effect is stark because it’s so obvious. Some cities, like Las Vegas, look like they suffered some kind of catastrophe, as if the city was abandoned and nature took over (which in the case of the Vegas Strip doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, to be honest).

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Thankfully, all of this is something that Microsoft and Asobo can fix. They’ll just need to adjust their algorithms, and because a lot of the data is streamed, the updates should be virtually automatic. The fact that they haven’t done so yet is a bit of a surprise.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Chances are you’ll want to fly over your house the day you get Flight Simulator. If you live in the right city (and the right part of that city), you’ll likely be lucky and actually see your house with its individual texture. But for some cities, including London, for example, the game only shows standard textures, and while Microsoft does a good job at matching the outlines of buildings in cities where it doesn’t do photogrammetry, it’s odd that London or Amsterdam aren’t on that list (though London apparently features a couple of wind turbines in the city center now), while Münster, Germany is.

Once you reach altitude, all of those problems obviously go away (or at least you won’t see them). But given the graphics, you’ll want to spend a lot of time at 2,000 feet or below.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

What really struck me in playing the game in its current state is how those graphical inconsistencies set the standard for the rest of the experience. The team says its focus is 100% on making the simulator as realistic as possible, but then the virtual air traffic control often doesn’t use standard phraseology, for example, or fails to hand you off to the right departure control when you leave a major airport. The airplane models look great and feel pretty close to real (at least the ones I’ve flown myself), but some currently show the wrong airspeed. Some planes use modern glass cockpits with the Garmin 1000 and G3X, but those still feel severely limited.

But let me be clear here. Despite all of this, even in its beta state, Flight Simulator is a technical marvel and it will only get better over time.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Let’s walk through the user experience a bit. The install on PC (the Xbox version will come at some point in the future) is a process that downloads a good 90GB so that you can play offline as well. The install process asks you if you are okay with streaming data, too, and that can quickly add up. After reinstalling the game and doing a few flights for screenshots, the game had downloaded about 10GB already — it adds up quickly and is something you should be aware of if you’re on a metered connection.

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Once past the long install, you’ll be greeted by a menu screen that lets you start a new flight, go for one of the landing challenges or other activities the team has set up (they are really proud of their Courchevel scenery) and go through the games’ flight training program.

Image Credits: Microsoft

That training section walks you through eight activities that will help you get the basics of flying a Cessna 152. Most take fewer than 10 minutes and you’ll get a bit of a de-brief after, but I’m not sure it’s enough to keep a novice from getting frustrated quickly (while more advanced players will just skip this section altogether anyway).

I mostly spent my time flying the small general aviation planes in the sim, but if you prefer a Boeing 747 or Airbus 320neo, you get that option, too, as well as some turboprops and business jets. I’ll spend some more time with those before the official launch. All of the planes are beautifully detailed inside and out and except for a few bugs, everything works as expected.

To actually start playing, you’ll head for the world map and choose where you want to start your flight. What’s nice here is that you can pick any spot on your map, not just airports. That makes it easy to start flying over a city, for example. As you zoom into the map, you can see airports and landmarks (where the landmarks are either real sights like Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle or cities that have photogrammetry data). If a town doesn’t have photogrammetry data, it will not appear on the map.

As of now, the flight planning features are pretty basic. For visual flights, you can go direct or VOR to VOR, and that’s it. For IFR flights, you choose low or high-altitude airways. You can’t really adjust any of these, just accept what the simulator gives you. That’s not really how flight planning works (at the very least you would want to take the local weather into account), so it would be nice if you could customize your route a bit more. Microsoft partnered with NavBlue for airspace data, though the built-in maps don’t do much with this data and don’t even show you the vertical boundaries of the airspace you are in.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

It’s always hard to compare the plane models and how they react to the real thing. Best I can tell, at least the single-engine Cessnas that I’m familiar with mostly handle in the same way I would expect them to in reality. Rudder controls feel a bit overly sensitive by default, but that’s relatively easy to adjust. I only played with a HOTAS-style joystick and rudder setup. I wouldn’t recommend playing with a mouse and keyboard, but your mileage may vary.

Live traffic works well, but none of the general aviation traffic around my local airports seems to show up, even though Microsoft partner FlightAware shows it.

As for the real/AI traffic in general, the sim does a pretty good job managing that. In the beta, you won’t really see the liveries of any real airlines yet — at least for the most part — I spotted the occasional United plane in the latest builds. Given some of Microsoft’s own videos, more are coming soon. Except for the built-in models you can fly in the sim, Flight Simulator is still missing a library of other airplane models for AI traffic, though again, I would assume that’s in the works, too.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

We’re three weeks out from launch. I would expect the team to be able to fix many of these issues and we’ll revisit all of them for our final review. My frustration with the current state of the game is that it’s so often so close to perfect that when it falls short of that, it’s especially jarring because it yanks you out of the experience.

Don’t get me wrong, though, flying in FS2020 is already a great experience. Even when there’s no photogrammetry, cities and villages look great once you get over 3,000 feet or so. The weather and cloud simulation — in real time — beats any add-on for today’s flight simulators. Airports still need work, but having cars drive around and flaggers walking around planes that are pushing back help make the world feel more alive. Wind affects the waves on lakes and oceans (and windsocks on airports). This is truly a next-generation flight simulator.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Microsoft and Asobo have to walk a fine line between making Flight Simulator the sim that hardcore fans want and an accessible game that brings in new players. I’ve played every version of Flight Simulator since the 90s, so getting started took exactly zero time. My sense is that new players simply looking for a good time may feel a bit lost at first, despite Microsoft adding landing challenges and other more gamified elements to the sim. In a press briefing, the Asobo team regularly stressed that it aimed for realism over anything else — and I’m perfectly okay with that. We’ll have to see if that translates to being a fun experience for casual players, too.


Microsoft Flight Simulator

You must accept the Microsoft Services Agreement ( Requires download(s) (significant storage, broadband internet connection and ISP fees apply). Requires download(s) (significant storage, broadband internet connection and ISP fees apply). May require additional hardware and subscriptions. Xbox services and support not available in all regions ( Features and online services may vary by region and change or be retired over time. May contain in-game purchases. Requires a Microsoft Account. Except as required by law, codes are non-refundable.

Xbox: Online console multiplayer/co-op requires Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Xbox Live Gold (memberships sold separately). Cross-Generation gameplay may be limited to certain modes and features.

Windows 10 PC: Performance scales with higher-end systems. WARNING: Some people may experience a seizure when exposed to flashing lights or patterns in video games (

AIRBUS and other Airbus product and service marks are protected trademarks of Airbus. All rights reserved. Officially licensed by Airbus.

Cessna names, emblems, body designs, and logos are trademarks and intellectual property of Textron Innovations Inc. and are used under license to Microsoft Corporation.

The Cub Crafters names, emblems, body designs and logos are trademarks and intellectual property of Cub Crafters and are used under license to Microsoft Corporation.

*Source August 24, 2020.

**© 2021 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020 video game)

2020 amateur flight simulator

"Microsoft Flight Simulator (video game)" and "FS2020" redirect here. For the 1986 edition, see Microsoft Flight Simulator (1986 video game). For the Swedish project, see Flygsystem 2020.

2020 video game

Microsoft Flight Simulator (colloquially known as Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020)[b] is an amateur flight simulator developed by Asobo Studio and published by Xbox Game Studios. It is an entry in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series which began in 1982, and was preceded by Microsoft Flight Simulator X in 2006. The game is a return of the series after a 14-year absence, with development beginning six years prior to its release. It was released on August 18, 2020, for Microsoft Windows, with a virtual reality (VR) version released in December of the same year—the first in the series to see a VR release. It is also the first game in the series to have a console release, with it being released on the Xbox Series X and Series S on July 27, 2021.

Flight Simulator simulates the topography of the entire Earth using data from Bing Maps. Microsoft Azure's artificial intelligence (AI) generates the three-dimensional representations of Earth's features, using its cloud computing to render and enhance visuals, and real-world data to generate real-time weather and effects. Flight Simulator has a physics engine to provide realistic flight control surfaces, with over 1,000 simulated surfaces, as well as realistic wind modelled over hills and mountains. Some places are handcrafted, introduced in region-specific updates. To augment its realism, the Azure AI also incorporates real-time elements like natural weather and real-world air traffic. The gameplay includes new features like landing challenges and helpers, as well as safaris where pilots can photograph animals from the air. A distinct difference from the other entries is the game does not display any scenes of destruction.

The game was released to critical acclaim, with praise for its graphical fidelity, cited by critics as the "safest way to travel" during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several reviewers also placed it on their favourites' lists and called it the most aesthetically pleasing game of 2020, though there was criticism of its loading times and inaccuracies in rendering of some buildings. Pilots also noted the game's unrealistic aerodynamics. It won Best Sim/Strategy Game at The Game Awards 2020.


Screenshot of the game from inside the cockpit, featuring a plane taxiing.
A LufthansaA320neo is cleared for takeoff at Budapest's runway 31L. The "Assistance" waypoints, in blue, are seen guiding the player, and the new subtitlesfeature is seen below. Above, an arrow can be seen; this signifies the centre, which is vital to implement a perfect take-off and landing. The cockpit ambience dominates this screenshot.

As an amateur flight simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator has a tutorial segment divided into sequences that allow players new to flight, or to the simulation, to learn the basic controls, the flight instruments, and other topics deemed essential for them to know before flying; it ends with a takeoff and landing test.[4] Throughout the tutorial, fictional pilot Captain Jess Molina assists players.[5][c] It offers landing challenges at some of the most famous and dangerous airports and the player is graded based on how centred they are on the runway, how close they are to the runway's touchdown zone when they land, and the plane's feet per minute speed at touchdown.[4] Another gameplay mode features three sight-seeing bush trips set in Nevada, Patagonia and the Balkans.[7]

Flight Simulator has an artificial intelligence (AI) air traffic controller (ATC) and a virtual co-pilot who can assist players when they are unable to do things like requesting landing clearance or going through checklists. It has several helper features: "Assistance" enables waypoint arrows at the taxiways, showing players where to go; "Route & Waypoints" enables markers to guide players in the sky; "Landing Path" guides players on landing; "Travel To" allows the pilot to jump to certain points of the flight (climb, cruise, descent, approach, finals – similar to time-lapse), condensing long-haul flights; an "Active Pause" pauses the flight, allowing players to explore the surrounding area or take a break. There are also subtitles available for radio transmissions.[8] These features are not available during challenges.[4]

Flight Simulator allows players to search for fauna in the game, either by filtering for it on the world map or selecting "Fauna Markers" when in mid-air.[8] The "Autorudder" feature keeps the plane on the centre line of taxiways and runways when the player cannot control it. Another feature allows the player to enter a geographic coordinate to find a location. The gameplay screen features a toolbar of buttons which allow the player to open the various windows for air traffic control, the camera views, modify checklists, view the navigation log, see objectives, view the visual flight rules (VFR) map, etc. The gaming interface also has the VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) compass, and the altimeter, throttle, engine, fuel, flaps, and trim tabs controls. Additional features like the head-up display (HUD) are accessible from the settings.[7]

Unlike its antecedents, Flight Simulator features no animations or depictions of damage or collision when an aircraft crashes. Instead, it cuts to black and provides a one-line message explaining why the plane crashed. Damaging the plane without crashing can degrade the aircraft's flight characteristics and so cause the aircraft structure to fail, which will place a message saying the aircraft exceeded limits but not exactly which limits were exceeded.[9]

Due to its complex amount of topographical, scenery and object data, Flight Simulator requires a certain speed of Internet connection for seamless gameplay. Windows Central states that the minimum megabit per second (Mbps) required is 5, with the recommended speed being 20, and the ideal speed being 50.[10]Flight Simulator has an offline mode, which uses the latest pre-cached data on one's hard drive.[11] Two caches exist, a rolling cache (controlled automatically by the simulator) and a manual cache (which can be set by the user). The rolling cache is written to when the user goes to flight mode, caching the local objects and scenery, and updates as the pilot flies around the virtual world. The user sets the manual cache locations and amount of detail to be stored, and the user can determine the storage sizes used in both methods - as well as turn them off if required.[7]


The Standard edition of Flight Simulator includes over 20 flyable aircraft; the Deluxe has five more, and the Premium Deluxe edition has ten additional airplanes compared to the basic version. Most of the aircraft are of American, French, or German origin, with a few manufactured by Austrian, Czech, and Slovenian companies. Aircraft included in the Deluxe version include those manufactured by Diamond Aircraft, Cirrus Aircraft, and Textron Aviation Inc., while aircraft exclusive to the Premium Deluxe version includes the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner and the Cessna Citation Longitude, and several general aviation aircraft.[12]Flight Simulator includes around 37,000 manually edited airports from around the world based on real-world satellite images.[13] The Standard, Deluxe, and Premium Deluxe edition include, respectively, 30, 35, or 40 hand-crafted airports that replicate their real-world counterparts. Airports in the Deluxe edition include those in the United States, Europe, and Africa, while those exclusively for the Premium Deluxe version include Heathrow and Dubai Airports, in addition to those from the US and Europe.[12]

The addition of third-party aircraft and airports are also supported within the simulator, as are additions of other services. Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network (VATSIM) and the International Virtual Aviation Organisation (IVAO) are examples of online flight-simulation networks supported within Flight Simulator since release[14][15] that allow pilots to talk to human air traffic controllers (instead of the AI ones) and to each other where there is no ATC coverage. These services add to the realism of flight simulators, and VATSIM was even used in 2008 to test proposed real-world changes to ATC before implementation.[16] Many of the third-party add-ons are repaints or exclusive liveries.[17] In addition, there are other add-ons (mods) for things such as recording flights, and a weather mod designed by Weather Preset Pro. The Microsoft team has said that they "welcome [all third party developers] onboard," and that they are "critically important".[18] To simplify things, an in-game marketplace was created on the game's website featuring a variety of third-party content.[19] This also includes the stock world updates, and some third-party mods such as A32NX by FlyByWire Simulations for the Airbus A320neo control systems.[20] The team is also committed to introducing new paid downloadable content (DLC) every "two or three months".[21]


Microsoft Flight Simulator uses its in-house graphics and physics engine while using Microsoft Azure to provide over two petabytes of world map data taken from the cloud on demand.[22] Microsoft partnered with,[23] who developed a solution that uses Microsoft Azure and AI to analyze map data and photogrammetry to generate photorealistic3D models of buildings, trees, terrain, and so on. This allows the simulator to depict parts of the world in 3D photorealism, and others in high definition.[24]Flight Simulator generates its terrain and scenery objects initially from satellite imagery or fly-by image scans. An "offline procedural generation AI" uses those and the data from Bing Maps to generate the scenery and objects for the virtual world. This can be enhanced using human intervention to assemble photorealistic objects and scenery for even higher levels of realism. Flight Simulator features multiple terabytes of texture and height map data. According to Alex Battaglia of Eurogamer, "Using a base mesh and textures, the game utili[z]es your [I]nternet connection to stream even higher quality terrain data onto your PC as you play, via the Azure cloud". This means that as the pilot flies around the world, the game downloads area-specific high quality scenery and objects which he says "boost the game's fidelity and diversity that I've yet to see in any other release".[25] Bing Maps updates every 28 days, allowing for Flight Simulator's to stay up to date with reality.[21] In rare cases where certain areas are blurred or pixelated on Bing Maps it "uses procedural techniques to fill in the blanks and make sure there is something in the space".[26] Some other places, however, were also blurred on purpose using clouds, filled with generic instead of specific graphics.[11]

Developer Asobo Studio scanned the interiors and exteriors of aircraft with a 3D scanner to create their realistic looks, polished with modeling and printing.[27]Textron Aviation also helped with the realism of the Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft.[28] There are also realistic physics and weather systems, and utilization of real-world weather data. For instance, if it is raining somewhere in real life, it can rain in-game. Individual clouds have their own behaviours and will impact aircraft performance depending on its location within the system.[29]Flight Simulator features a 600-kilometre (370 mi) draw distance and allows the player to see storms on the horizon, with lightning cracking inside the clouds.[30]Flight Simulator is the first flight simulator to enable worldwide visual flight rules (VFR), a feature not seen in contemporary flight simulators used by airlines to train and test pilots.[31]

Through cloud-based technology, Flight Simulator sends data to the computer or console in real time, with AI being utilized to extrapolategeometry from a blend of satellite and flyover imagery.[32] Other sources of data include terrain data for landscaping, data for foliage density, real-time meteorological data,[31] and air traffic updates.[33] A separate atmospheric renderer simulates accurate humidity and pollution.[34] Skyscrapers cast shadows over each other that darken as the player reaches street level and cities disperse light at night that radiates the sky.[35] Cloud technology is used to calculate, among other things, the way air flows around natural structures such as mountains to cause pockets of turbulence, or stream in the world's real-time air traffic, and time of day and weather.[36] The game's detailed physics were also chained to the aircraft itself: for instance, certain aircraft speeds determine the speed of the water streaming through the aircraft's windows, and certain wind movements determine the shape of turbulence.[11]

Volumetric lighting is used for various effects, including illuminating water droplets, which can cover the entire cockpit window, and with everything being simulated in real time.[37] Light sources such as the sun, moon, or city lights scatter appropriately through the environment, pollution levels and humidity affect refraction and overall visibility, and the atmosphere is layered the same as it is in the real world. Clouds are volumetrically modelled, with 32 layers determining shape, density, and “fuzziness".[38] At times, Flight Simulator's reflection system uses ray marching by retranslating voxels. Otherwise, the reflection system uses a mix of screen-space reflections and cube maps to show reflections on more distant bodies of water.[39] In addition to a complex lighting system, Flight Simulator makes use of highly detailed shaders.[40] The game uses screen-space reflections (an optional feature selected by players) extensively,[41] and bokehdepth of field.[42]

Flight Simulator populates the world with animals and roads with vehicles, grasses have individual blades, and water flows realistically based on wind direction, creating the illusion of a living world.[43] The game world includes over 2 million cities and towns,[44] 1.5 billion buildings, 2 trillion trees, and 37,000 real-world airports.[45] This approach allows Microsoft to flag artifacts and visual anomalies from a bird's-eye view, clearing up the input for a world-building algorithm. The result is fed into Microsoft's artificial intelligence, stringing the environment together in the cloud, and then streamed to the computer (PC) or console in real time.[46]Flight Simulator features various animal species that can even be viewed at ground level, including birds, elephants, giraffes and bears.[47] It also allows the player to scout, chase and interact with real-world storms as they occur in real time.[48]


Using data of Microsoft’s home city of Seattle, which Bing Maps has rendered down to five-centimeter resolution [...], Asobo took a few weeks to put together a demo of a Cessna flying downtown. Neumann then showed it to Phil Spencer [...].

"He just looked at me and said, 'Why are you showing me a video of [...] a plane?'" Neumann says. "And then the plane turned, and we flew over the Microsoft campus where we were [... right now]. And he’s like, 'Is this real time? Is this running?' And I'm like, 'Yes, it is!' And we knew then we had something special."

– Jörg Neumann on presenting an early build of Flight Simulator to Xbox head Phil Spencer[49]

France's Asobo Studio developed Microsoft Flight Simulator published by Xbox Game Studios.[50] The game was announced at E3 2019 on June 9, 2019.[51] It is the first major entry in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series since 2006's Flight Simulator X (FSX), following a long period of uncertainty over the future of the series after the closure of Aces Game Studio in 2009.[50]

The franchise's return after a 14-year absence is partially credited to the business model of Xbox Game Pass, allowing for a wider variety and diversity of games.[52] Xbox chief Phil Spencer said that Flight Simulator is part of Microsoft's renewed commitment to PC gaming. According to Spencer, their head of global partnerships Sarah Bond worked on the Game Pass "with the indie montage" and all the games set to launch on Game Pass, then announced it for PC, as well as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. "I didn't know if the PC community was going to be watching or not, but we went Flight Sim, we went Age, we went Wasteland—I wanted people to know that we want to make sure we're building games and supporting games that respect what the PC community loves", he elaborated. On bringing back Flight Simulator, he said: "We do have some pilots on the teams that are big fans of flight, and flight sims, and flying themselves, who are passionate about it, so we said, 'okay, let's see what we can do'." Reflecting on the legacy of the series to the aviation community, Spencer thought, "Can we do something new with Flight Sim? Can we actually move it forward in an interesting way?"[53]

Project leader and creative director Jorg Neumann said there is a pilot shortage crisis, and he felt the simulation would "create a funnel" for future pilots.[54] On CNN, he said:

When you meet pilots a lot of them that say 'you know what? -- my interest in this whole thing started with Microsoft Flight Sim many years ago'. Some people choose that as a career, and we do hope to inspire this new generation. Ever since we showed our trailer we've been called by almost every airplane manufacturer and they all tell us there's a pilot crisis, but for us it's about priority-setting. We're excited about making a sim, and if we can help with the pilot crisis in some shape or form - we'll try when the time is right."[55]

Six years before its release, the foundations of Flight Simulator began through work with Asobo on a product called HoloTour for Microsoft's HoloLensmixed reality headset. A challenge that later inspired the Flight Simulator project was to build a digital version of Machu Picchu's vast mountainside and vistas versus normal buildings at street level. This spurred Microsoft executive and Neumann to consult with the Bing Maps team to use their detailed photogrammetry data of Machu Picchu, which included the ruins, to create a HoloLens replica of it. Neumann later used Bing Maps photogrammetry data for Asobo to build a flight demo for the city of Seattle.[49] The technology incorporates Microsoft's discontinued Photosynth project, which generates 3D models from 2D photos.[56] Regarding the aircraft 3D scanning technology, Asobo recalled that, although scanning saves more time and simplifies the work, scanning an aircraft can take a full day, depending on the size. The cockpit barely takes an hour.[27] The accuracy of the aircraft were later checked by veteran pilots.[11] Neumann met with Meteoblue, a Swiss company, to incorporate their realistic, real-time, and worldwide weather data into the product.[57] To port realistic weather, the Earth is divided into 250 million boxes, and meteorological and climatological data are embedded in them. Further layers of data are placed higher up in the skies to the stratosphere. Using data of the forces on the weather at of each location, Meteoblue's system created a set of mathematical equations incorporated in the game which forecast weather conditions.[58]

A team of audio directors, designers, and recordists were in charge of the audio incorporated into Flight Simulator. The team worked with a pilot who provided the aircraft. They had a tight schedule of two and a half hours per day; they managed to record three planes per day. 30 aircraft types and five turbofans were recorded using Sennheiser and Audix microphones to record the audio. A Shure VP88 was used to record propeller sounds. To record cockpit sounds, a small portable rig was used that recorded in quadraphonic and ambisonic sound formats at the same time. Biome systems were used to create soundscapes for different environments and times on Earth. All of these recordings were recorded using Audiokinetic Wwise.[59] The Azure Cognitive Services plays a role in improving the pilot and ATC automated dialogue: they built a universal text-to-speech model using 3,000 hours of data to achieve naturalness in dialogue, and used pre-built as well as volunteer-submitted audio in order to give different accents to ATCs of different regions.[60]

Sometime after its unveiling at E3 2019, Microsoft organized a temporary Insider Program, where members could access the alpha and beta versions of the game, and provide the developers with immediate feedback, suggestions and criticism.[61] Those willing to volunteer for the program underwent a selection session; if they were chosen, they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that they would not share their gameplay or their thoughts on the game's under-maintenance version. One volunteer broke their agreement and shared footage to YouTube; Microsoft used their copyrights to have the videos removed immediately. That individual lost the testing privileges.[62] In November 2019, FSX had a beta "branch" which gained telemetry data that would help the development of Flight Simulator. It was available at no cost for all FSX and FSX Steam Version players.[63]


2020World Update 1: Japan
World Update 2: USA
Sim Update 2
2021Let It Snow
World Update 3: UK & Ireland
Sim Update 3
World Update 4: France & Benelux
Sim Update 4
World Update 5: Nordics Europe
Sim Update 5
World Update 6: Germany, Austria & Switzerland

Early into 2021, Microsoft unveiled real-time snow and winter environments for winter locations; this update was nicknamed "Let It Snow".[64] The game is constantly updated with "World Update[s]" and "Sim Update[s]". "World Update I: Japan", was released on September 29, 2020, after Tokyo Game Show 2020 Online. It features photogrammetry for Sendai, Takamatsu, Tokushima, Tokyo, Utsunomiya, and Yokohama, as well as handcrafting for Hachijojima, Kerama, Kushiro, Nagasaki, Shimojishima, and Suwanosejima airports. It adds landing challenges set in Japan.[65] During Thanksgiving 2020, "World Update II: USA" was released. 50 structures in the United States were handcrafted, including the Las Vegas Strip, which lights up at night[66] and four handcrafted airports: Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson, Friday Harbor, Dallas/Fort Worth and New York Stewart.[67] The next world update, "World Update III: United Kingdom and Ireland", was initially planned to be launched on January 26, 2021; however, Asobo delayed it[68] to February 16.[69] The update included 70 new structures, photogrammetry for Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, London and Oxford, along with five new handcrafted airports: Barra, Liverpool, Land's End, Manchester-Barton and Out Skerries.[70] "World Update IV: France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg" released on April 13, 2021, brought approximately 100 new structures and scenery for central western Europe. The update provided photogrammetry data for Paris and Amsterdam, and added three new handcrafted airports: Megève, Nice and Rotterdam.[71] On April 29, 2021, "World Update V: Nordics Europe" and "Sim Update V" were announced to be released in June and July 2021 respectively.[72] "World Update V: Nordics" was released on June 17, 2021. The update brought improved data for 100 airports, 78 new points of interest and five handcrafted airport, one for each country served in the update: Bornholm in Denmark, Ísafjörður in Iceland, Stockholm Arlanda for Sweden, Svalbard for Norway and Vaasa in Finland.[73] In early June, "World Update VI: Germany, Austria & Switzerland" and a second entry simply named "World Update" were announced both listed for late August.[citation needed] Meanwhile, at E3 2021, Neumann confirmed that two World Updates would be coming later in 2021, with six additional ones planned for 2022.[74] "World Update VI: Germany, Austria, Switzerland" released on September 7, 2021.[75]

Microsoft receives feedback from users of Flight Simulator via their forums, including requests for helicopters, structure updates, inaccurate detail fixes, and the need for improved systems. Some fixes have been made, others are planned, are under investigation, or have begun. Helicopters are expected to be introduced in 2022,[76] as well as gliders, or "sailplanes", in 2021 or 2022.[77] The Flight Simulator team constantly receives feedback from players and has said the game is updated when it is received.[31]

At E3 2021, an expansion pack in response to the release of Top Gun: Maverick was announced to be released in late 2021, featuring the aircraft and carrier seen in its trailer.[74]


The first people to play Flight Simulator — journalists, bloggers, influencers, and flight simmers — were invited by the developer team to Rainier Flight Service, a flight school in Renton, Washington. Attendees also flew post-gameplay in a real Cessna aircraft with Justin Fancher, Rainier's flight instructor.[11] On July 13, 2020, Microsoft began accepting preorders, and on August 18, 2020, Flight Simulator became available for the PC.[78] The company said the game was the largest release in its history,[79] and announced three versions of the title—Standard, Deluxe, and Premium Deluxe—each providing an incremental set of airplanes to fly and additional airports with more detailed scenery and objects.[80] In addition to digital licenses from Microsoft Store and Steam, the game is also available on the PC version of the Xbox Game Pass subscription service,[12] allowing for the first one-month play of the Standard version of Flight Simulator for just US$1, as opposed to the normal purchase price of US$69, and at US$3.99 for subsequent months subscriptions.[81]

At E3 2021, Microsoft announced that the game will be released for Xbox Series X and Series S on July 27, 2021,[74] with undated announcements going back to December 11, 2020.[82] Anticipating a wider range of players, Microsoft made several modifications in order to make gameplay more accessible, like adding four more tutorial sequences, diversifying the AI abilities, as well as adding the option of slander floats and skis in aircraft so that it can land anywhere.[74] Indeed, the game was released on the platform on time as announced. Video game critics were provided a preview of it several days ahead of public release.[83] A Microsoft spokesperson stated that plans for its release on Xbox One will be discussed sometime in 2021,[84] although Microsoft stated that the Series X version of the game would be playable on Xbox One via Xbox Cloud Gaming in 2022.[85]

The game is available for purchase worldwide, except for China; although some aspiring Chinese players are finding ways to purchase it via Steam and the Microsoft Store.[86] Microsoft did not explain why it is unavailable in China, but it has been suggested by the South China Morning Post that it could be an "approval issue", a lack of internet capacity for the Azure data services to "keep it running smoothly", or because of the high quality of the mapping data used "that would potentially bring up a lot of issues with the content for Chinese regulators".[87]

Other releases[edit]

Photograph of the game's CD. Inside the box there are two discs.
Aerosoft's physical release of the Standard edition came on ten DVDs

Aerosoft, a German developer and publisher of simulation software, announced in July 2020 that they partnered with Microsoft to release a physical version in Europe. Released corresponding with the PC, the physical version is more suitable for those with slower internet connections. It is available in two editions, Standard and Premium Deluxe and comes with 10 dual-layer DVDs, a printed manual, and a keyboard reference chart.[88] The DVDs are each able to store a maximum of 8.7 gigabytes (GB), and so contain around 90 GB of data that consists of the installer and basic content, including aircraft and the standard-definition default world;[89] however, an internet connection allows the patches and updates to be downloaded during installation. An active internet connection is needed for the simulator to update itself when needed. As with the digital versions, after installation the game does not require an active internet connection and can be played offline; users also have the option to stream more details for the world, better ground imagery, real-world weather and ATC data from Microsoft's servers.[89]

Neumann stated that a virtual reality (VR) version of Flight Simulator was the "very first feedback" they received after the unveiling at E3 2019,[90] however aspirations of creating a VR version in the game series has been in his mind as far as 2016. They only started developing it in June 2019.[54] In July at a developer livestream on Twitch, they announced a VR version of Flight Simulator.[76] It was later released on December 22, 2020, designated as a free update.[91] While it was previously announced to only be supported on Microsoft Mixed Reality devices, Asobo announced that it is supported on all OpenXR[76] and SteamVR devices[92] The first device that will be supporting the game is Hewlett-Packard's Reverb G2; it was the headset's launch title. Support for other devices will be launched after the Reverb launches.[90] In the VR version, two new tutorials were released, including one using the Airbus A320neo.[76] Corresponding with the VR update, "real-time snow and true-to-life ice coverage to the entire planet" was introduced by Microsoft.[91] Microsoft announced "new performanceoptimizations" which reduces the complications of the "hefty" required specifications: an i5-8400/Ryzen 5 1500X, GTX 970, and 16GB of RAM.[92]


Critical response[edit]


Microsoft Flight Simulator, within PC and Xbox Series X and Series S, received "universal acclaim" from video game critics, according to review aggregatorMetacritic.[78][93] Within the site, the game is rated the third-best PC game of 2020, behind Half-Life: Alyx and Hades,[109] as well as the tenth most discussed game. On OpenCritic, another aggregator, it was rated "Mighty" based on 86 critics, along with the summary: "Microsoft Flight Simulator is a technical marvel, with an insane amount of polish, incredible realism, and phenomenal controls."[110] Many reviewers have placed it among the best games of the year[111][112][113] and a gaming essential,[114] with Bailey Kat of USGamer awarding it August 2020's Game of the Month.[115]

Reviewers considered the graphics and realism of Flight Simulator as the reason it stands out,[95][101] with Tokarev Kirill of 80 LEVEL and Chad Sapieha of Common Sense Media describing its authenticity as unprecedented,[34][103] and Charlie Hall of Polygon calling it an aesthetic feat within PC gaming.[116] It has also been said to be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that appears once a generation, and is predicted to see everlasting legacy.[35] Despite some technical issues, Engadget's Devindra Hardawar found the VR version of the game realistic, to the extent that its visuals resonated with him.[54]Shacknews and VG247 described the game as revolutionary within the series, as it is the first entry to be used widely by those outside the aviation community.[99][102] Thus, many critics suggest that non-aviation lovers will also adore the game, especially due to its inherent futuristic sensation.[33][117] It has been labeled the best-looking video game of all time[118] as well as the best-looking flight simulator, albeit being disclaimed as a still-imperfect "work in progress".[33]

The Xbox Series X and Series S version was also raved among reviewers, with the accessibility additions being praised. Most reviews focused mainly on the graphical and visual side. Although the graphics are noted to be smaller, with the resolution of the affordable, US$299 version downgraded from 4K to 1080p, it did not ruin the experience, which was still similar to the original. The frame rate was also found to be better than the PC version. Contemporarily, it was considered the best releases for the platform, and was described as next-generation. According to Matt Brown of Windows Central, the memorable hint within the game's visual still retains. He recommended the Series X version over the Series S, though noted the Series S is also great. Poor accessory support were also stressed upon its release. Many reviewers were dismayed over the lack of gameplay difference from the PC, with the use of controls being described as irritating.[83][119][120][121] Because of the game's routine updates prior to the Xbox release, Gianluca Musso of the Italian Eurogamer opined that Xbox players have more enjoyment than the PC players, at least from that viewpoint; he also recommended it as a Series X and Series S starter.[122]

The mainstream media also viewed Flight Simulator in a positive light. According to Paul Sillers, writing for CNN, Flight Simulator might be "the safest way to travel" during the COVID-19 pandemic, and because of the global economic conditions in the wake of COVID-19, is being used by furloughed pilots to keep their skills fresh.[123] As "a comprehensive simulator that steadily guides players from square one to being able to fly, combined with kitchen-sink graphics", The Guardian concluded that Flight Simulator "captures the wonder of flight, and the spiritual and emotional rush of seeing the world in a different way".[100] Writing for The New York Times, Farhad Manjoo describes the game as "more than a technical achievement or a marketing demo", writing the experience it offers is akin to an online life. "The game plunged me into sustained meditations on the permeability between the real [and online world]—[offering] me some hope of a more realistic kind of online life in the future."[124]


Within the first few weeks of release, over one million users had played Microsoft Flight Simulator.[79]Market intelligence firm Jon Peddie Research noted in August 2020 that simulator enthusiasts are among the most active gamers online, projecting that Flight Simulator fans would spend $2.6 billion over the next three years on the game. Peddie also predicted that there would be more than 2.27 million copies sold, and that Intel, Nvidia, and Advanced Micro Devices might benefit from this, as the game is shown to have operational shortcomings, which may increase the demand for more advanced central processing units (CPU).[125] Following its console debut, the Xbox version was the third best-selling game across Xbox platforms in the U.S. in July 2021. Microsoft Flight Simulator dropped to fifth-position in the Xbox charts the following month.[126]

Audience response[edit]

Game developer Rami Ismail conducted a casual test of the accuracy of the game performing an in-game real-time flight from Montreal to Amsterdam while simultaneously travelling commercially on that same route and found the game's flight to be accurate within minutes of the real flight. He described the game "absolutely staggering" and "wild".[127]Investigative journalist Giancarlo Fiorella used the game to detour around El Helicoide, currently a building used for detainingpolitical prisoners in Venezuela and SEBIN offices in Bolivia, the northeastern area of Damascus, Battle of Aleppo sites, and the Uyghur camps in Xinjiang. He concluded the game is not a viable tool for geolocation and investigative works, but said that if it improves to absolute realism, it "might actually help us with geolocation when we’re trying to figure out where a video or picture was taken".[26]

Initial criticism focused on the simulator's loading times. On Steam, the long in-game installation has frustrated many users, forcing them to exceed two hours of gameplay and lose the right to a refund. This resulted in a review bomb, several users demanding refunds and the game's rating dropping. However, Doug Lombardi, Vice President of Steam's owner Valve, says they have addressed this issue.[129] The download times had been either slow or stuck. Windows Central said such bugs are expected saying: "Just remember, it's launch day."[130] There were also reports that features exclusive to the Deluxe and Premium Deluxe version could not be loaded.[131]PCGamesN compared the problem to a delayed flight: although it may irritate passengers at first, the result will do otherwise.[98]

Some users reported inaccuracies in rendering buildings like the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., and Buckingham Palace in London. They had been mistakenly rendered as a skyscraper and an office block, respectively. Because of a typographical error in the height of a Melbournesuburban building in OpenStreetMap, data which had been used by Bing Maps and then used by Asobo, the flight simulator initially rendered a two-storey building as 212 storeys—inserting an improbably thin and tall skyscraper into the suburb.[132] Users also discovered the system is unable to render palm trees, making them into obelisks "jutting forth from the pavement like so many teeth". The TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, has also been misrendered as an office building with grass roofs. Many users on the Flight Simulator support forums also reported instability and game crashes without no obvious cause. Despite this, Tom Warren of The Verge said "the glitches are more amusing than they are game breaking".[133] Engadget's Jessica Conditt opined such bugs represent what the amateur flight simulation genre is all about: creating a planet sandbox where players can do whatever they want.[31]

Further negatives were voiced by pilots, expressing disappointment with the game's unrealistic aerodynamics and the aircraft's "sluggish" response. Although the game was "fun", the anticipation of the game is markedly overhyped.[134] At Gizmodo, a pilot commented on the overly sensitive control surfaces at slow airspeeds, noting that it could be fixed "if the physics model accounted more for reduced airflow over [them]".[135]

Popular destinations[edit]

Large numbers of users have been attracted to several destinations. In August 2020, many players went to the Little Saint James island in the US Virgin Islands, where child sex offenderJeffrey Epstein reportedly molested underage girls. YouTubers and Redditors shared their experiences and shared the island's coordinates. The Independent opines that cases subject to conspiracy theories are a main driver of interest. It was quickly noted that the game failed to render the island in a detailed fashion;[136]Vice noticed the game does not include the island's iconic dome and said the activity "is just another way for people to satisfy their fascination with one of the most horrible stories in recent memory, and not that different than sending drones to film the island and chartering private boats to explore its buildings".[137]

During the 2020 West Coast fires, several players went to the affected areas, and discovered the smoke from the fires can be seen through the game. Although the details are not too accurate, it "does help to contextualize just how big the fires are, and how much of the state is impacted by them".[138] As Hurricane Laura was approaching Texas and Louisiana, players flew inside the Category 4 hurricane.[57]The Washington Post noted the inaccuracy of the wind speeds, and that the hurricane did not swirl.[139] Mathias Müller, head of Meteoblue said: "Yesterday’s hurricane was very beautiful to look at and was accurately predicted by our models even days ahead. We are very happy that real-time weather is now part of Flight Simulator. It was a long journey as integrating these massive amounts of data required the solution of many problems." He said that Laura inspired them to improve Flight Simulator's weather quality.[57]

Many players have travelled to their own homes via the game. Asobo revealed that in a survey, 70% of players had immediately flown to their homes or hometown.[140]

The Suez Canal soon became popularized among players following the obstruction of the canal by the Ever Given ship (with the ship becoming a downloadable content). Players using it shared their flights on social media. The feature was acknowledged by Mat Velloso, technical advisor to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, on Twitter.[141]


  1. ^Under Xbox Game Studios.[1]
  2. ^Also referred to as Flight Simulator 2020, Microsoft Flight Sim 2020, and Flight Sim 2020. Abbreviations include MSFS, MSFS 2020, FS2020, and FS.
  3. ^Voiced by Marie Westbrook.[6]


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Microsoft Flight Simulator

This article is about the original Microsoft flight simulation series. For the newest edition, see Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020 video game). For all other uses, see Flight simulator (disambiguation).

Not to be confused with Microsoft Flight.

Windows-based flight simulator software

Video game series

Microsoft Flight Simulator (often abbreviated as MSFS or FS) is a series of amateur flight simulator programs for Microsoft Windowsoperating systems, and earlier for MS-DOS and Classic Mac OS. It is one of the longest-running, best-known, and most comprehensive home flight simulator programs on the market. It was an early product in the Microsoft application portfolio and differed significantly from Microsoft's other software, which was largely business-oriented. At 38 years old,[2] it is the longest-running software product line for Microsoft, predating Windows by three years. Microsoft Flight Simulator is one of the longest-running PC video game series of all time.[3][4]

Bruce Artwick began the development of Flight Simulator in 1977. His company, Sublogic, initially distributed it for various personal computers.[4] In 1981, Artwick was approached by Microsoft's Alan M. Boyd who was interested in creating a "definitive game" that would graphically demonstrate the difference between older 8-bit computers, such as the Apple II, and the new 16-bit computers, such as the IBM PC, still in development. In 1982, Artwick's company licensed a version of Flight Simulator for the IBM PC to Microsoft, which marketed it as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00.

In 2009, Microsoft closed downAces Game Studio, which was the department responsible for creating and maintaining the Flight Simulator series. In 2014, Dovetail Games were granted the rights by Microsoft to port the Gold Edition of Microsoft's Flight Simulator X to Steam and publish Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition.

Microsoft announced a new installment at E3 in 2019, simply titled Microsoft Flight Simulator, to be released initially on PC and ported over to the Xbox Series X at a later date. It was released on August 18, 2020 on PC. The Xbox edition was released on July 27, 2021.[5]

On July 12, 2020, Microsoft opened up preorders and announced that Microsoft Flight Simulator for PC will be available on August 18, 2020.[6] The company announced three different versions of the title – standard, deluxe, and premium deluxe, each providing an incremental set of gameplay features, including airports, and airplanes to choose from.[7]


Main article: History of Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator began as a set of articles written by Bruce Artwick in 1976 about a 3D computer graphics program. When the magazine editor said that subscribers wanted to buy the program, Artwick set to work to create it and incorporated a company called Sublogic Corporation in 1977. The company began selling flight simulators for several computer platforms, including the 8080, Altair 8800, and IMSAI 8080. In 1979 Sublogic released FS1 Flight Simulator for the Apple II. In 1980, Sublogic released a version for the TRS-80, and in 1982 they licensed an IBM PC version with CGA graphics to Microsoft, which was released as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00. It was unusual in that it was not an application program requiring an operating system, but contained its own operating system, which displaced the installed one as long as the program was running. In the early days of less-than-100% IBM PC compatible systems, Flight Simulator and Lotus 1-2-3 were used as unofficial compatibility test software for new PC clone models.[8]

Sublogic continued to develop for other platforms and ported Flight Simulator II to the Apple II in 1983; the Commodore 64, MSX, and Atari 800 in 1984; and to the Amiga and Atari ST in 1986. Meanwhile, Bruce Artwick left Sublogic and founded The Bruce Artwick Organization to continue his work on subsequent Microsoft releases, beginning with Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0 in 1988. Microsoft Flight Simulator reached commercial maturity with version 3.1, and went on to encompass the use of 3D graphics and graphic hardware acceleration.

Microsoft continued to produce newer versions of the flight simulation software, adding features, such as new aircraft types and augmented scenery. The 2000 and 2002 versions were available in "Standard" and "Professional" editions, where the latter included more aircraft, tools and scenery options. The 2004 release (version 9) marked the celebration of one hundred years of powered flight and had only one edition. Flight Simulator X, released in 2006, returned to dual versions with a "Standard" and a "Deluxe" edition.

The flying area encompasses planet Earth with varying degrees of detail and includes over 24,000 airports. There is an ever-growing list of scenery representing major landmarks and popular cities. Landscape details become sparse as gameplay moves away from population centers within the flight simulator, particularly outside the United States, although a variety of websites offer scenery add-ons to remedy this.

The three latest versions incorporate sophisticated weather simulation, along with the ability to download real-world weather data (first available with Flight Simulator 2000). Additional features in these newer versions include air traffic environments with interactive air traffic control functions, new aircraft models from the historical Douglas DC-3 to the modern Boeing 777, interactive lessons, challenges, and aircraft checklists. The two latest versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator have a "kiosk mode", which allows the application to be run in electronic kiosks located in public places like shopping malls. Microsoft Flight Simulator has a wide selection of upgrades and add-ons, both free and commercial, official and fan-made.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X[edit]

Main article: Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is the third most recent major release of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and the last one developed by Aces Game Studio. It includes a graphics engine upgrade and compatibility with preview DirectX 10 and Windows Vista. It was released on October 17, 2006, in North America. There are two versions of the game, both on two DVDs. The "Deluxe" edition contains the new Garmin G1000 integrated flight instrument system in three cockpits, additional aircraft, and missions; Tower Control capability in multiplayer mode; higher detail scenery for cities and airports; and a Software Development Kit (SDK) for development. The main improvements are graphical.

Microsoft has also released a Flight Simulator X demo, which contains three aircraft, two airports, and two missions. It is compatible with Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista.

Closure of the Aces Game Studio[edit]

See also: Aces Game Studio

On January 22, 2009, it was reported that the development team was heavily affected by Microsoft's program of job cuts, with indications that the entire Microsoft Flight Simulator team had been laid off.[9][10] Microsoft confirmed the closure of the Aces Game Studio on January 26, 2009, in a post on the official FSInsider Web site.[11] stating "This difficult decision was made to align Microsoft's resources with our strategic priorities. Microsoft Flight Simulator X will remain available at retail stores and Web retailers, the Flight Sim community will continue to learn from and encourage one another, and we remain committed to the Flight Simulator franchise for the long term."

According to former Aces employee Phil Taylor, the shutdown was not due to sales performance of FSX, but due to management problems and delays in project delivery, combined with increased demand for staff.[12] Speculation in the mainstream and gaming media was that future versions could be released as an Internet-based version, or on Microsoft's Xbox platform.[13]

In October 2009, two (out of over fifty) former members of the Aces Game Studio formed a new game studio called the Cascade Game Foundry[14] for the development of simulation games.[15][16]

Third-party developer agreements[edit]

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D[edit]

In late 2007, Aces Game Studio announced Microsoft ESP (Enterprise Simulation Platform), a development platform for companies that want to create products that use the technology in Flight Simulator. Following the closure of the Aces Game Studio in January 2009, Lockheed Martin announced in late 2009 that they had negotiated with Microsoft a licensing agreement to purchase the intellectual property (including source code) for the Microsoft ESP product. It is the commercial-use version of Flight Simulator X SP2. On May 17, 2010,[17] Lockheed announced that the new product based upon the ESP source code would be called Prepar3D (P3D). Lockheed hired members of the original Aces Game Studio team to continue development of the product.

In November 2010, Lockheed Martin debuted Prepar3D version 1.[18] Version 1.1 was released in April 2011, with a retail license cost of US$499.[19] A developer license is also available for a monthly fee of US$9.95. In March 2012, along with the release of version 1.3, the pricing strategy was revised. The Professional edition is now available for US$199, with an Academic License available for US$59.95.

After releasing version 2 in 2013 and version 3 in 2015, the team released 64-bit version 4 in May 2017.[20]

Version 5 was released on April 14, 2020.[21]Due to the changes in elevation between version 4 and version 5, many developers charged for upgrades to make their airport sceneries compatible with the new elevation. [22] This elevation issue, in turn, created new developers to pop up to create "compatibility files" for older version 4 airports to work on version 5. Companies such as iniBuilds and Scandinavian Mountains lead the development of compatibility files.[23][24]

Dovetail Games And Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition[edit]

On July 9, 2014, Dovetail Games announced that Microsoft had granted them rights to develop the next Flight Simulator in the series. Dovetail Games also announced the release of Flight Simulator X: Gold Edition on Steam for late 2014, titled Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition. It was released on December 18, 2014. It is a re-release and includes content that was provided with the original FSX: Gold Edition which includes FSX: Deluxe Edition, the Acceleration expansion pack, and both official Service Packs and repackages them in one bundle and a single installation. The Steam Edition includes "all standard Steam functionality", including an overhaul of the multiplayer support to go through Steam rather than the now-defunct GameSpy,[25] improved stability on Windows 7 and 8, and features minor performance tweaks including a complete recompile using VS2013.

Additionally, Dovetail Games has worked with existing developers and publishers to distribute their content on Steam as DLC. Currently, there are over 100 add-ons for FSX: Steam Edition [27] from over 35 developers available on the Steam store including Aerosoft, Captain Sim, Orbx Simulation Systems, Real Environment Xtreme (REX), Carenado, Virtavia, and others.

Flight Sim World[edit]

In May 2017, Dovetail Games announced Flight Sim World, based on the codebase of Flight Simulator X, and released later that month.[28] Only a year later, on April 23, 2018, Dovetail announced end of development of Flight Sim World and the end of sales effective May 15, 2018.[29]

Microsoft Flight[edit]

Main article: Microsoft Flight

Not part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series

In February 2012, Microsoft released a new flight simulator titled Microsoft Flight. Developed by The Coalition (as Microsoft Game Studios Vancouver), it was not part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, but instead was designed to replace it and aimed at drawing new users into flight gaming. While claiming to be simpler to use for inexperienced users, it is incompatible with Flight Simulator and does not allow the use of existing Flight Simulator add-ons (including aircraft, objects, and photographic scenery).

On July 26, 2012, Microsoft cancelled further development of Flight.[30]

Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)[edit]

Main article: Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020 video game)

On June 9, 2019 as part of their E3 conference announcements Microsoft revealed that they would be bringing back the Flight Simulator series with an updated release, simply titled Microsoft Flight Simulator. On the same day, Microsoft launched a new website for the title and posted a teaser video on their Xbox YouTube channel.[31] The new version features tight integration of ground satellite data and Microsoft's own Azure AI into the simulator's engine to generate near-photorealistic graphics. Asobo Studio is the lead developer.[32]

The game is Microsoft's first simulator since Microsoft Flight in 2012.[33] In addition to the PC release it was also released for the Xbox Series X and Series S, making it the first entry in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series to be released for a gaming console. The Windows PC version of the simulator was released on August 18, 2020.[34]Microsoft Flight Simulator launched for Xbox Series X and Series S on July 27, 2021.

Add-ons, customisation, and community involvement[edit]

See also: Category: Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons

The long history and consistent sales of Flight Simulator has encouraged a very large body of add-on packages to be developed as both commercial and volunteer ventures. A formal software development kit and other tools for the simulator exist to further facilitate third-party efforts, and some third parties have also learned to 'tweak' the simulator in various ways by trial and error. As for number of add-ons, tweaks, and modifications Flight Simulator can accommodate solely depends on the user's hardware setup. The number is not limited by the simulator, and when multiple computers are linked together with multiple monitors and third party software and controls, Flight Simulator enthusiasts can build their own realistic home cockpits.


Individual attributes of Flight Simulator aircraft that can be customized include: cockpit layout, cockpit image, aircraft model, aircraft model textures, aircraft flight characteristics, scenery models, scenery layouts, and scenery textures, often with simple-to-use programs, or only a text editor such as 'Notepad'. Dedicated 'flightsimmers' have taken advantage of Flight Simulator's vast add-on capabilities, having successfully linked Flight Simulator to homebuilt hardware, some of which approaches the complexity of commercial full-motion flight simulators.

The simulator's aircraft are made up of five parts:

  • The model, which is a 3D CAD-style model of the aircraft's exterior and virtual cockpit, if applicable. Models consist of two distinct sections - the main chassis or "core", and accessories or dynamic parts, such as the landing gear or ailerons.
  • The textures, bitmap images which the game layers onto the model. These can be easily edited (known as repainting), so that a model can adopt any paint scheme imaginable, real or fictional.
  • The sounds, literally what the aircraft sounds like. This is determined by defining which WAV files the aircraft uses as its sound-set.
  • The panel, a representation of the aircraft's cockpit. This includes one or more bitmap images of the panel, instrument gauge files, and sometimes its own sounds.
  • The FDE, or Flight Dynamics Engine. This consists of the airfile (a *.air file), which contains hundreds of parameters that define the aircraft's flight characteristics, and the aircraft.cfg file, which contains more and easier-to-edit parameters.

Most versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator include some of the world's most popular aircraft from different categories, such as the Mooney Bravo and Beechcraft Baron 58, which fall into the general aviation category; the Airbus A321 and Boeing 737, which fall into the civil jets category; the Robinson R22, which falls into the helicopter category; the Air Scheffel 738, which falls into the general aviation category again; and many other planes commonly used around the world.

Not being limited to using the default aircraft, add-on planes can be downloaded from many sources for free or purchased, which can then be installed into Microsoft Flight Simulator. The Beechcraft 1900D pictured above, is an add-on aircraft. Similarly, add-on repaints can be added to default aircraft; these repaints are usually downloaded for free.

AI traffic[edit]

A growing add-on category for the series is AI (artificial intelligence) traffic. AI traffic is the simulation of other vehicles in the FS landscape. This traffic plays an important role in the simulator, as it is possible to crash into traffic (this can be disabled), thus ending your session, and to interact with the traffic via the radio and ATC. This feature is active even with third-party traffic. Microsoft introduced AI traffic in MSFS 2002 with several airliners and private aircraft. This has since been supplemented with many files created by third-party developers. Typically, third-party aircraft models have multiple levels of detail, which allow the AI traffic to be better on frame rates, while still being detailed during close looks. There are several prominent freeware developers. Some third-party AI traffic can even be configured for "real time" departures.


Scenery add-ons usually involve replacements for existing airports, with enhanced and more accurate detail, or large expanses of highly detailed ground scenery for specific regions of the world. Some types of scenery add-on replace or add structures to the simulator. Both freeware and payware scenery add-ons are very widely available. Airport enhancements, for example, range from simple add-ons that update runways or taxiways to very elaborate packages that reproduce every lamp, pavement marking, and structure at an airport with near-total accuracy, including animated effects such as baggage cars or marshalling agents. Wide-area scenery enhancements may use detailed satellite photos and 3-D structures to closely reproduce real-world regions, particularly those including large cities, landmarks, or spectacular natural wonders.

Flight networks[edit]

Virtual flight networks such as IVAO, VATSIM, and Pilot Edge as well as Virtual Skies, and Mindstar Aviation's AirspaceVR [35] use special, small add-on modules for Flight Simulator to enable connection to their proprietary networks in multiplayer mode, and to allow for voice and text communication with other virtual pilots and controllers over the network. These networks allow players to enjoy and enhance realism in their game. These networks are for ATC (air traffic control).


Some utilities, such as FSUIPC, merely provide useful tweaks for the simulator to overcome design limitations or bugs, or to allow more extensive interfacing with other third-party add-ons. Sometimes certain add-ons require other utility add-ons in order to work correctly with the simulator.

Other add-ons provide navigation tools, simulation of passengers, and cameras that can view aircraft or scenery from any angle, more realistic instrument panels and gauges, and so on.

Some software add-ons provide operability with specific hardware, such as game controllers and optical motion sensors. is one website that host a forum style knowledge base aimed at the development of add-on items, tools, and software.

Excel Unusual hosts two versions of flight simulator downloads and tutorials, built from scratch with only VBA and cell formulas, in both 2D[36] and 3D.[37]


A number of websites are dedicated to providing users with add-on files (such as airplanes from actual airlines, airport utility cars, actual buildings located in specific cities, textures, and city files). The wide availability over the internet of freeware add-on files for the simulation package has encouraged the development of a large and diverse virtual community, linked up by design group and enthusiast message boards, online multiplayer flying, and 'virtual airlines'. The internet has also facilitated the distribution of 'payware' add-ons for the simulator, with the option of downloading the files, which reduces distribution costs.


PC Magazine in January 1983 called Flight Simulator "extraordinarily realistic ... a classic program, unique in the market". It praised the graphics and detailed scenery, and concluded "I think it's going to sell its share of IBM PCs, and will certainly sell some color/graphics adapters".[38]BYTE in December 1983 wrote that "this amazing package does an incredible job of making you think you're actually flying a small plane". While it noted the inability to use a RGB monitor or a joystick, the magazine concluded that "for $49.95 you can't have everything".[39] A pilot wrote in the magazine in March 1984 that he found the simulated Cessna 182 to be "surprisingly realistic". While criticizing the requirement of using the keyboard to fly, he concluded "Microsoft Flight Simulator is a tour de force of the programmer's art ... It can be an excellent introduction to how an aircraft actually operates for a budding or student pilot and can even help instrument pilots or those going for an instrument rating sharpen their skills".[40]

Another pilot similarly praised Flight Simulator 2.0 in PC Magazine that year, giving it 18 out of 18 points. He reported that its realism compared well to two $3 million hardware flight simulators he had recently flown, and that he could use real approach plates to land at and navigate airports Flight Simulator's manual did not document.[41]Compute! warned "if you don't know much about flying, this program may overwhelm you. It's not a simple simulation. It's a challenging program even for experienced pilots". The magazine concluded that Flight Simulator "is interesting, challenging, graphically superb, diverse, rewarding, and just plain fun ... sheer delight".[42]Flight Simulator 2.0 was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #142 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[43]

Computer Gaming World stated in 1994 that Flight Simulator 5 "is closer to simulating real flight than ever before".[44]

Microsoft Flight Simulator X was reviewed in 2006 by GameSpot. The reviewer gave the game an 8.4 out of 10 and commented on how it was realistic enough to be used for real-life flight training.[45]


The success of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series has led to Guinness World Records awarding the series seven world records in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include "Longest Running Flight Sim Series", "Most Successful Flight Simulator Series", and "Most Expensive Home Flight Simulator Cockpit", which was built by Australian trucking tycoon Matthew Sheil, and cost around $200,000 to build.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-09-30. Retrieved 2019-10-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^"About the Aces Team" (Press release). Microsoft. 2009-01-26. Archived from the original on 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
  3. ^Stokker, Serban (2006-09-18). "Flight Simulator X Lands On Gold". Archived from the original on 2010-10-12. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
  4. ^ abLai, Eric (2009-01-25). "Flight Simulator will Soar Despite Microsoft Layoffs". PCWorld. Archived from the original on 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
  5. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-06-09. Retrieved 2019-06-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^Warren, Tom (2020-07-13). "Microsoft Flight Simulator will launch on August 18th on PC". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  7. ^"Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2020 will launch on August 18". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  8. ^Gulick, Charles (1987). Runway U.S.A.Microsoft Press. ISBN . Archived from the original on 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  9. ^Remo, Chris (2009-01-22). "Report: Microsoft Makes Big Cuts At Flight Sim Studio". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-01-22.
  10. ^Plunkett, Luke (2009-01-22). "Flight Simulator Devs Grounded By Microsoft Job Cuts". Kotaku. Archived from the original on 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2009-01-22.
  11. ^"About the Aces Team". FS Insider. 2009-01-26. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  12. ^Taylor, Phil (2009-01-26). "End of an Era Part II: Links and Speculation". Future GPU Thoughts and Musings. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  13. ^Li, Eric (2009-01-23). "Despite laying off Flight Simulator team, Microsoft still 'committed to flying games'". Computerworld. Archived from the original on 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  14. ^"Cascade Game Foundry".[permanent dead link] Press Release: Cascade Game Foundry Forges Ahead, Opens New Simulation Game Development Studio, October 12, 2009 (2009-10-12)
  15. ^"BREAKING NEWS - ACES Studio Crew forms new company - The Flight Simulator Network". Archived from the original on 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  16. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2011-07-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^"Lockheed Martin Announces Prepar3D". Archived from the original on 2010-07-13.
  18. ^"Prepar3D Product Overview". Lockheed Martin - Prepar3D. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  19. ^"Prepar3D website". Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^"FSX Insider FAQs". FSX Insider. 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  26. ^"FSX: Steam Edition App page". Steam. 2018-04-23. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  27. ^"Flight Sim returns to the skies this month with new title". PCGamesN. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  28. ^"Flight Sim World Closure Announcement". Steam. 2018-04-23. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  29. ^"Microsoft cancels Flight and Project Columbia development". SlashGear. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  30. ^"Microsoft Flight Simulator - E3 2019 - Announce Trailer". Xbox. YouTube. 9 June 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  31. ^Machkovech, Sam (September 30, 2019). "The new MS Flight Simulator taught me how to fly an actual plane". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  32. ^Keane, Sean. "E3: Microsoft Flight Simulator coming to PC". CNET. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  33. ^"Microsoft Flight Simulator | Xbox & Windows 10". Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  34. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-03-02. Retrieved 2020-03-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-09-20. Retrieved 2020-12-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-11-27. Retrieved 2020-12-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^Fastie, Will (January 1983). "Flight Of The 5150: The PC Takes Off". PC Magazine. p. 303. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  38. ^Malloy, Rich (December 1983). "Reviewer's Notebook". BYTE. p. 282. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  39. ^Miastkowski, Stan (March 1984). "Microsoft Flight Simulator". BYTE. p. 224. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  40. ^Aarons, Dick (1984-10-02). "A Perfect Flight". PC Magazine. p. 269. Archived from the original on 2014-01-01. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  41. ^Florance, David (December 1984). "Microsoft Flight Simulator for PC & PCjr". Compute! (review). p. 142. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  42. ^Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (February 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (142): 42–51.
  43. ^Trimble, Timothy L. (January 1994). "The Friendly Skies Of Flight Simulator 5". Computer Gaming World. pp. 108–109. Archived from the original on 2019-12-09. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
  44. ^Jeff Lackey, "Microsoft Flight Simulator Review"Archived 2012-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, GameSpot, 21 Oct 2012
  45. ^Moses, Asher (2009-03-12). "Matt's on a different plane ... and it's surreal". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 2012-01-15. Retrieved 12 May 2012.

External links[edit]


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October 7th, 2021 Development Update

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

Pre-release testing for Sim Update 6 has begun! If you are interested to see what’s coming in this update, we posted the tentative Release Notes for Sim Update 6 which you can find enclosed in this blog post.

September 30th, 2021 Development Update

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

We are kicking off our next flighting opportunity (Pre-release Testing) for Sim Update 6! This will be on a first-come-first-served basis and sign-ups will open tomorrow, October 1st at 5 am PT/8am ET (1200Z). We are looking for simmers to test on all three platforms: PC, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X. Limited space is available on each platform.

Local Legends 1: Junkers Ju 52

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

The team is proud to announce a new series of releases called “Local Legends” that will frequently coincide with World Updates. These aircraft are famous in the region of the world update, but often are not as well known to a worldwide audience. For World Update VI, we chose a famous German plane from 1930 called the Junkers Ju 52, now available from the Marketplace.

September 23rd, 2021 Development Update

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

It’s officially fall in the Northern Hemisphere! Stay tuned for our next live Development Q&A on September 29th at 10:30am PT at

Release Notes for Hotfix Version

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

Release notes for Hotfix Version are now available. Please launch the Microsoft Store, Xbox App, or Steam to download the latest update!

A Junkers Ju 52 in flight

Local Legends 1: Junkers Ju 52

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

The team is proud to announce a new series of releases called “Local Legends” that will frequently coincide with World Updates. These aircraft are famous in the region of the world update, but often are not as well known to a worldwide audience. For World Update VI, we chose a famous German plane from 1930 called the Junkers Ju 52, now available from the Marketplace.

Community Spotlight: InTheBlueYonder

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

This week, we are happy to shine the spotlight on a true Renaissance Man from the world of flight: Brian “InTheBlueYonder” Murray. In addition to being a licensed pilot and owner of his own plane, he’s also a Twitch streamer, aviation podcast host, and Microsoft Flight Simulator mod creator who is currently building a full-scale VR cockpit that will be publicly unveiled at the upcoming Reno Air Races from September 15-19, 2021.  

New Simmers: 20 Must Fly Locations in the Sim from our Community

| Posted by: Microsoft Flight Simulator Team

So, you’ve had one day to install and boot up Microsoft Flight Simulator on your Xbox Series X|S. First thing you do? Fly over your house. Check. Of course, there are Discovery Flights, flight trainings, landing challenges, bush trips and more for you to explore, but you feel like doing your own exploring right now. What should you see first? Never fear! We asked the community what places they think you should fly to next and this is their top MUST DO list of activities.


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Microsoft Flight Simulator is getting its biggest update ever on PC today, thanks to a new patch that delivers significant performance improvements. The game has been notoriously demanding since its launch last year, but the team behind the simulator has been focusing heavily on improving its CPU and memory usage. PC players can now go ahead and download the latest update, and it should improve frame rates across a variety of hardware.

I’ve been testing the update for the past couple of weeks on my own PC, equipped with an Intel Core i9-11900K and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, and the improvements are staggering even on top hardware. I use Microsoft Flight Simulator for benchmarks during our GPU reviews, and in the same section flying across Seattle, my frame rate has gone from an average of 45fps all the way up to 68fps. That’s more than a 50 percent leap with ultra settings enabled at 1440p.

Even flying across areas like New York City sees some impressive improvements, with my machine now managing to hit 80fps average in what’s typically a very demanding part of Microsoft Flight Simulator. The improvements are so surprising that I’ve had to double and triple check my settings to make sure I was actually running at ultra on everything.

Overall, the game now feels a lot smoother with less random fps drops than before. It should also be a lot more playable on a wider range of hardware as a result. Asobo, the developer of Microsoft Flight Simulator,demonstrated the game running on an older system with an Intel Core i7-9700K and an RTX 2060 Super earlier this month. Microsoft Flight Simulator jumped from around 30fps to nearly a solid 60fps on this PC with the patch, and CPU and memory utilization also dropped significantly.

“We have rewritten a lot of the parts of the engine ... in order to get the maximum performance out of the sim,” explained Asobo CEO Sebastian Wloch earlier this month. The team has been mainly working on CPU optimizations, and it’s clearly worked out well.

This has all been achieved without a move to DirectX 12, too. While a DirectX 12 version of Microsoft Flight Simulator launches on Xbox Series X / S today, the PC version will remain on DirectX 11. That leaves the door open for even more potential improvements in the future.

The upcoming move to DirectX 12 will also allow Asobo to introduce ray tracing in the game. Effects should include better water, improved shadows, and the usual reflections that are found in ray-traced games. Asobo has not yet confirmed when Microsoft Flight Simulator will move to DirectX 12 on PC.

“All the performance improvements come from just improving the simulator,” confirmed Wloch earlier this month. “PC has not yet moved to DirectX 12, the team is still working on it. It may bring improvements further, or not.”


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