Earlier this year, less than six months ago, Microsoft attempted to revive the previously canceled Flight Simulator franchise with the free-to-play Microsoft Flight on the Games for Windows platform. The game launched with one major location and two airplanes, with additional planes available through (expensive) DLC.
As we’ve learned today, the Microsoft Flight pricing model and marketing ultimately failed and Microsoft has put an end to further development.
And with that, the Flight Simulator franchise is again, no more. Despite building the game to work with a mouse and keyboard, and allowing for multiplayer play for all skill levels, the game’s popularity failed to take off.
The news first came via reports that Microsoft was shutting down its 35-person Vancouver studio, but in a statement to GameSpot, Microsoft clarified the matter, stating that the studio is not shutting down but that they are cutting development on Flight as well as their in-development Kinect game.
“Microsoft Studios has decided to end development on Microsoft Flight and Project Columbia. As a result of this action, some positions within the development teams have been eliminated. Microsoft human resources is working with the affected individuals to find new roles within the company.”
“Microsoft Studios is invested in British Columbia and still has several teams, both in Vancouver and Victoria, which will continue to produce the best entertainment and gaming experiences possible.”
Project Columbia was an interactive virtual story book exclusively for the Kinect on Xbox 360. As for Microsoft Flight and its DLC (including the latest of which launched three weeks ago), they are still available and can be downloaded on the official site here.
It’s a shame Flight couldn’t grow to its full potential. 2006’s Microsoft Flight Simulator X included two-dozen aircraft and several dozen cities making the free-to-play followup, albeit much more graphically detailed, a limited experience for authentic simulator enthusiasts. In trying to offer both a realistic simulator and a basic multiplayer experience, Flight struggled to define itself well in either category and we can only hope the series returns in the future.
Perhaps when Google Earth gets even more detailed or on the next-gen Xbox when Microsoft allows full keyboard/mouse support, it could reach a broader audience.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.