Opinion: Microsoft Flight Simulator could be a system-seller for the Xbox Series X

Laurent Giret

Microsoft Flight Simulator video game on Windows 10, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

A year ago, something truly unexpected happened at Microsoft’s E3 press briefing. 13 years after the release of Flight Simulator X, the company announced it would bring its oldest game franchise back to life with a new game with never-seen-before photorealistic graphics. Fast forward to this week, and this new Flight Simulator game is now available for PC gamers, and it’s the highest-rated Microsoft game in years.

There’s something really special about this new Flight Simulator, especially at a time when a global pandemic is preventing many of us from traveling. Developer Asobo Studios has been able to recreate the entire planet using data from Bing Maps and Microsoft’s Azure, and the result is simply breathtaking, as Keanu Reeves would say. Flight Simulator is definitely one of the most beautiful games you can play on PC this year, and it actually doesn’t require the latest and greatest specs.

In retrospect, it’s a bit hard to understand why Microsoft didn’t promote Flight Simulator more ahead of its release, as if the company didn’t realize it had a hit on its hands. The first trailer Microsoft showed at E3 2019 is the #11 most-viewed trailer on the Xbox YouTube channel with 6M views, far ahead of the Halo Infinite E3 2019 trailer with just 3.4M views. It’s also quite fascinating to see that the highest-rated Microsoft game in years has actually been developed by a third-party studio, while the big-budget Halo: Infinite, which has now been delayed to 2021, has been heavily criticized for its dated graphics.

Still, Microsoft chose to open its Xbox Games Showcase with Halo Infinite last month, while Flight Simulator was nowhere to be seen during the show. With Halo Infinite being delayed to next year, the Xbox Series X will now launch without a flagship Microsoft game, and that could be a real problem for the company. We already know that Flight Simulator will make its way to Xbox consoles at some point, but Microsoft and developer Asobo Studios has yet to announce a release date. That’s too bad, as the PC game is perfectly playable with an Xbox controller, and it has the potential to be a true system seller for the Xbox Series X.

According to the Market-intelligence firm Jon Peddie Research (via VentureBeat), Flight Simulator enthusiasts are expected to spend $2.6 billion on PC hardware over the next three years to improve their gaming experience, a prediction based on a 2.27 million game sales forecast. “When new flight simulators are released, the hardware to run them at max settings and performance does not even exist yet. This creates a situation of constant hardware demand over the life of the title as fans chase the best experience,” explained Jon Peddie gaming analyst Ted Pollak.

With Flight Simulator being free with Xbox Game Pass for PC, you don’t need to spend $60 to see if your PC can run the game well or not. However, I think many gamers would rather spend $500 or more on the Xbox Series X to play Flight Simulator in 4K on a TV. There are quite no games like this on consoles these days, and I think many flight sim fans and even casual gamers who don’t have a high-end gaming PC could buy an Xbox console just to play Flight Simulator. It’s quite the perfect casual game that can appeal to everyone, and no one can really resist the opportunity to fly over familiar places with such an unprecedented level of detail.

How Microsoft can spend billions on new studio acquisitions in recent years but launch a new console without a flagship title is leaving many people scratching their heads, myself included. A couple of years ago, Microsoft also missed a big opportunity with the Minecraft Super Duper Graphics Pack, which was supposed to completely revamp the game’s graphics on the Xbox One X. Unfortunately, the Super Duper graphics pack never shipped, and the Xbox One X also launched without a flagship title. While Minecraft is getting ray-tracing support on PC thanks to Nvidia, there’s still no word about a ray-tracing update for Minecraft on the Xbox Series X.

Just like Minecraft, Flight Simulator is one of Microsoft’s most valuable franchises, one that can really help the company escape the tired Halo/Gears/Forza formula that may no longer appeal to Xbox fans. I really hope that releasing Flight Simulator on the Xbox Series X is currently a priority for Microsoft and Asobo Studios, as the game is currently a top seller on Steam as well as big attraction on Twitch and YouTube. Flight Simulator will also be supported for years to come, and it’s also being built as a community project. Asobo Studios has just announced the release of the first public Microsoft Flight Simulator SDK, which will allow other developers to build mods and more additional content.

Do you think Microsoft Flight Simulator could be a system-seller on Xbox consoles, and the perfect game to showcase the Xbox Series X’s power advantage over Sony’s PlayStation 5? Let us know what you think in the comments below.