At E3 2019, one of the world’s biggest video game conferences, Microsoft announced something many had thought of as impossible. On June 9th, a trailer for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 was released on the XBox YouTube channel. After 14 years, Microsoft would return to the Microsoft Flight Simulator Scene. This time, the new flight simulator was big news. Press releases were made and the entire gaming magazine and press published about it.
From the trailer, it was very clear that this wasn’t just a bit of an updated version, like we see with new versions of P3D and X-Plane. This was an entire new sim, created from scratch. Development was laid in the hands of Asobo Studios, who have previous experience with detailed open world games like the Crew. The French game design studio was going to use never-before seen technology for the new simulator.
Asobo used Bing Aerial imagery to cover the entire world with photorealistic scenery and Microsoft’s Azure AI to place 3D assets on top of that. MSFS would have 4K textures for everything. We could even see flamingo’s flying around. Although some were skeptical already. Everything might look great, but that is no guarantee that it will also function great. Making a simulator is not an easy task. Because the closer you want it to be to real-life, the more people expect it to be 100% like the real thing. Some said they would stick with whatever they were using. Default simulator aircraft are historically completely ignored.
Other people were very certain that the new simulator would be the absolute best thing ever made and that it would completely eliminate the payware market for flightsim addons. Until Microsoft announced they are working with developers and several partnership programs were announced. The in-built Marketplace again proves that Asobo has not forgotten about third-party developers.
The weekly development updates posted on the flightsimulator.com website kept a good overview of what was coming and what was done already. We saw more and more of the content that was coming. The Boeing 747-8 and, never seen in-sim before, the Airbus A320NEO. Both licensed by their respective companies. Of course, there were also many prop and turboprop planes to be excited about.
Then the alpha and betas got announced. Thousands of people signed up to test MSFS and be one of the first to experience the new simulator. Some were lucky enough to get accepted. Others weren’t. Under a strict NDA, the testers started testing, developers started developing and content creators started creating content. Some leaks here and there did happen.
Once some of the developers’ NDA got lifted, we saw preview after preview of scenery and aircraft for MSFS. We made a megathread about it, to keep track of the over 40 developers that have announced their intentions with Microsoft Flight Simulator.
After a lot of teasing and hypebuilding, the time has come. Whether you abbreviate it as MSFS, MFS, MSFS2020 or maybe something else, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has been released in Kiribati already. It will follow timezones and release at midnight if you bought it on the Microsoft Store. Steam users can download and play the game from 0400z on August 18th.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is available as three tiers. Standard, Premium and Premium Deluxe, each having more aircraft and custom handmade airports than the previous. Their respective prices are €69.99, €89.99 or €119.99. They are available from the Microsoft Store, Steam and SimMarket.