Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series was one of the most important series in the early years of PC gaming, and for good reason. The games’ first few versions showed off the impressive graphical capabilities of the IBM PCs with their colorful environments, detailed instrument panels, and realistic airplane models.
The Flight Simulator series holds a special place in my heart for many reasons. It is my first memory I have of gaming in any capacity; I learned to fly a digital Cessna around the same time I learned to read. My cousin would come over on weekends and we would sit in my father’s office chair for hours, flying around the world and concocting our own machinations of adventure along the way. In Kindergarten, I wrote (and illustrated!) a story inspired by our rasterized aviatic excursions that won a writing contest at my elementary school.
How could a kid not love Flight Simulator? It gave you the one thing you coveted most as a youngster: freedom. You could fly from Chicago to Cleveland to Pittsburgh to New York City and nothing could prevent you from doing so. Flight Simulator was “open world” when “open world” was, at most, a pipe dream.
It wasn’t long, however, before I forgot all about my beloved Flight Simulator and moved onto the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat.
Then, a few years ago, I got the itch to return to the skies and picked up a copy of Flight Simulator X. The joy I felt when I was five was still present twenty years later as I piloted a vaguely familiar Learjet over the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Unfortunately, it was with the release of Flight Simulator X in 2006 that the genre all but died completely. Sure, there have been games like X-Plane to fill the void for the hardcore flight sim enthusiasts, but the genre has largely faded from the mainstream ever since.
In an age when simulators are all the rage (ironic or otherwise), it would only seem logical that Microsoft would once again give wings to the franchise so integral to their growth. Aside from the free-to-play Microsoft Flight that could be described as “half-assed” at best, the franchise seemed to have suffered the same sad fate as the iconic Meigs Field in Chicago; a cherished part of aviation history whose legacy resides only in the past tense.
There may be hope, however. Earlier this year, Dovetail Games, the developers of the Train Simulator franchise, negotiated with Microsoft for the rights to the series. Not only will Flight Simulator X Gold Edition see a Steam release later this year, but the British developer is also working on the eleventh game in the series, which is tentatively set to release some time in 2015.
I’m cautiously optimistic at this point, but you can bet I will be among the first to take to the skies when the series re-launches next year.
Until then, maybe I will finally get around to working on the decades-in-the-making sequel to my award-winning children’s aviation novel.