Saturday, January 24, 2009

More thoughts on the Flight Sim tragedy

I've exchanged a few calls & mails with friends at Microsoft following the layoffs they announced. It's one thing to read the numbers. It's another thing to talk to a friend that's suddenly worried about the mortgage, feeding the kids, etc. Saddening.

Regarding the teams and products affected though, Flight Sim in particular is a shocker. The claim is that MS is still 'committed to the product', but having laid off the Aces studio, and their ever-distancing from the Windows gaming effort, it's really hard to beleive. The weight of it hasn't sunk in until now as I read some of the blog posts about the implications.

As Steve points out, Flight Simulator was (until this week anyway), Microsoft's oldest product in continual development. It was a piece of gaming's history. The original IBM PC version was developed by subLogic and published by MS for the IBM PC back in 1982. It existed on other platoforms (I got started on the C-64 version) as early as 1980. Is there another game franchise with a 29-year legacy? There's a good history here.

Additionally, Flight Sim isn't just a game, it's a platform. It supports an entire co
ttage industry of third party add-on vendors ranging from military missions to air traffic AI to hot air balloon sims to a space shuttle simulator. Not to mention the hardware add-ons for people that want to do really elaborate rigs.

Anyhow. It's sad. 

What next for this space? there's an obvious vaccuum for one of the few competing products in the space to try to fill. Still a shame for MS to lose all that legacy though. Maybe they should sell the source and assets to another company? Maybe open source the whole thing?

Might be worth noting that when MSN Games cancelled Bridge, enough noise from a small but rabid group of fans, some of it directly to Bill, brought it back (though in a different form). Not sure that would work for FS though.

Hope something good is resurrected out of the ashes here.


Patrick said...

Creative destruction is an essential part of all cycles. I'm not trying to judge here, but the future will test this hypothesis: maybe a dozen monitors and several rigs running one flight simulator is a bit too decadent?

I'm starting to think that the gaming divisions of MS and Sony will be among the first casualties of these companies collapsing in the face of changing circumstances that render their centralized, pay-for-data business models unsustainable. What do you think?

Ultimately, all collapsing industries render their workers in a tough spot, but one that requires the imagination to do something else or otherwise adapt one's approach to the craft. In many cases, this will mean people are going to spend a portion of their time growing their own food, in others it will lead to entrepenurial and artistic innovation. At least, that's my perspective.

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