By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Microsoft shut down the group responsible for its popular Flight Simulator X (FSX) in 2009 and by 2010 announced that a new game, "Flight," was in the works -- now it says that game will arrive this spring and it will be free (with limits). Microsoft Flight will be available free via download and will include "flying challenges," and "a variety of exciting missions" limited to a setting that mimics the Hawaiian islands. Extra content, including "new aircraft, regions and customization options," will be made available through an upgrade at a price yet to be announced. According to Microsoft, "players" will experience "authentic piloting procedures" and can "tailor the flight controls to match their skill level." Microsoft has posted some online samples of the Flight experience.
When Microsoft's FSX in 2009 left the active upgrade world, it fell into the hands of third-party support. Primary competitor X-Plane recently released its latest version, X-Plane 10, that includes 1,400 aircraft, 33,000 airports and claims to have the most realistic flight modeling of commercially available personal computer-based flight simulators. That may appeal to a different audience than Microsoft's offering. The target audience for Microsoft Flight remains to be seen. According to Microsoft, Flight will be easy enough to encourage casual participation from people who prefer their flying to be more like a game. But it also appears the software's upgrade options will make an effort to meet expectations for realism set by serious computer pilots. The program can be made "challenging for the most accomplished PC pilots," according to the company. As for its usefulness for real-world pilots, we'll find out this spring.