Following the announcement of Microsoft Flight Simulator at E3, Robert Randazzo of PMDG has shared his perspective regarding the news (as well as PMDG’s official approach toward the platform). To avoid any miscommunication, the complete post has been included below.
[12JUN19] PMDG and the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Question by Robert Randazzo
I want to put some initial thoughts out there in order to firmly set expectations with respect to PMDG’s development agenda and the just announced Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
As always, there are very few facts in the marketplace but plenty of guesses, opinions and hopeful ideas being thrown into threads all over the simsphere. This is a common occurrence borne of human nature and is not indicative of any particular strength or weakness in the sim community. It does tend to lead to herd-mentality taking over and some members of the herd failing completely to discover what the actual facts are before joining in the stampede.
So this post will serve, I hope, to be the official fact basis for anyone who wants to know exactly what PMDG is thinking with respect to MSFS2020. If anyone offers facts other than the ones contained here, please use this as your basis to correct them. (or a club, if necessary.)
As of this writing, PMDG knows the following facts based upon published information and direct intelligence gathering:
- Microsoft has been at work developing a new title to release using the MSFS name.
- This title and the effort to develop it have been kept under wraps for some time.
- None of the firms with which we are in contact have or have had any direct discussion with Microsoft about this title.
- There were some rumors of this title a few months back, but they evaporated without confirmation.
Based upon history, we know:
- In 2005 Microsoft began to explore how to monetize the secondary add-on market for themselves.
- There were multiple leadership, culture and team changes in the years that followed.
- MS Flight was the ultimate effort by Microsoft to monetize the secondary market by forcing developers such as PMDG to work solely through their marketplace, develop under license restrictions and move customers toward a subscription based model.
- MS Flight ultimately failed because it missed the core of the sim marketplace, was poorly timed to market and failed to deliver a good flying experience for simmers.
- PMDG was involved in an effort to purchase the rights to continue developing the core of MSFS along with some partners. This effort failed in favor of Dovetail.
- We learned during this effort that Microsoft would insist that it had the right to recapture any development done within their core code if they were to decide to re-enter the marketplace. This made the purchase untenable to us, as it meant that Microsoft would always have a leg up to compete with us using our own work.
- Dovetail eventually tried to approach the simulation market with the same, walled off business model that would force secondary developers to market only through their own portals and under heavy restrictions that would reduce product quality and competition.
Given these facts above:
PMDG is taking a “wait and see” approach toward Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. We simply do not have sufficient information to allow a smart business decision to be made with regard to future support and planning for this new title. As of this moment, nobody in our part of the marketplace is even aware if the title will allow for after-market development, how those products will be sold or what restrictions might be in place that are beneficial or not to developers.
Until these areas are clarified by Microsoft, we simply won’t be able to evaluate positively or negatively and thus we will refrain from making any decisions at this time.
All of that being said- here is my personal opinion:
Simmers have a history of hyperventilating at the newest and latest preview, even when there are no facts with which to support their excitement. We are seeing this now in the marketplace with some users announcing that “this is a game changer” and declaring the universe moving off it’s axis of rotation when they don’t even know if the platform will meet their needs as a simmer. I recommend we all simply encourage the developers of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 to double down and do the absolute best that they can, then lets see what comes of it. All of us would love to see a new, modern technology platform that remains open-world to developers like PMDG, but it is highly unlikely (given recent history) that this will happen. I will not be surprised to see this title marketed more toward the game community based upon my historic conversations with Microsoft as they tried to find ways to expand their customer base. I will also not be surprised to find that Microsoft has it’s eyes set firmly on raiding the space in which many of your favorite expansions exist: Aircraft, scenery, airports and apps. They are not entering this business sector out of altruism, they are here for profit margins, and the market history in the past has shown again and again that those margins exist in the relationship between the after-market developers and the end user.
If that marketplace is constructed similarly to the effort with Flight or Dovetail- then it is a horrible thing indeed for customers in the long term. As a consumer I am not so easily led by the nose as many simmers like to be… I have been in this market for a quarter century almost- and I have seen many players come and go. I have seen good business models and bad- and i have tried to help the platform developers understand what they must do to win the core of the market. I have only been surprised rarely by outcomes in this quirky little space we call simming- and that causes me to take a cautious stance with respect to MS’s return to our corner of the internet.
Let us hope the lesson has been learned here- and there will continue to be space for all of us to keep delivering high quality simulation products to you on a range of available platforms.
Image // PMDG Simulations