Where'd All the Flight Simulators Go?

Flight simulators were all the rage 10 years ago. Where are they now?

Flight simulators dominated PC gaming in the 90's and early 2000's with fantastic titles such as Red Baron winning the hearts of gamers. The evolving technology allowed gamers to experience niche fantasies that developers created.

Now with the popularity of PC gaming rising dramatically, these flight sims should be gaining newfound success. Sadly, they have nearly disappeared from the market with X-Plane 11 being the only major release coming this year. While this niche genre has fallen out of popularity, it can easily make a return.

Before we tackle how flight sims can make a reemergence, we must understand why they fell out of popularity in the first place. First and foremost, flight sims are a niche genre that relies on external hardware. Before controllers were commonly used with PC's, joysticks were used to properly control flight sims. While you could play most sims with a mouse and keyboard, they were vastly inferior to these joysticks. These joysticks also did not work well with other games, making them very niche peripherals. When PC gaming became more popular, this niche hardware became an additional, sometimes unneeded cost due to controller availability and 'unifying' nature.

Flight sims themselves were also niche titles. Most genres get surges of popularity and flight sims were no exception. These games focused on immersion and fit well in the core PC market. This surge ended due the increased popularity of PC gaming and a more homogenized output of AAA games. The AAA market continually focused on increased profits, so niche genres were ignored -- a similar thing happened with racing games, and now look at the market.

This leads to how flight sims can return into the spotlight. Their biggest chance of reemerging is in the indie scene. Other simulator have been successful due to focusing on these niches and creating content that was sustainable by these audiences. Truck Simulator would never be developed by a AAA developer due to the small audience. AAA developers will only cater to these niches if there is a strong market demand.

There is a resurgence of simulation games, and not the Surgeon Simulators, but of the real kind. With Farming Simulator 17 selling over a million in its first month, and the likes of Dirt Rally, and Project Cars reaching critical praise and selling like hotcakes, flight simulators are lagging behind. We have had Take On Helicopters way back in 2011, and DCS World just before it, but it's time for another Microsoft Flight Simulator (but not Flight, or made by Microsoft due to the aforementioned bore fest) to storm into the genre. Fans are waiting, and eager but who will be the first to give fans what they need?

Flight sims like any other genre, need a stable market to rely on. With an indie developer at the helm flight sims will be able to reemerge into gaming, simply due to the focus on pure profit not being as high.

Are you ready for a new truly innovative flight simulator? Let us know in the comments below!

Published Jan. 30th 2017

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