Yesterday, it was announced the development of Flight Sim World would not continue, this came as quite a shock to many in the community, but for some, it was almost inevitable.
Well, it all really starts on the 25th July 2012, that’s when Microsoft announced that the development of their Microsoft Flight Simulator platform would close, they said it was part of “the natural ebb and flow” of application management.
Then, on 9th July 2014, Dovetail Games came into the picture when they announced that they’d acquired a licensing agreement from Microsoft to distribute Flight Simulator X on Steam. This did fairly well as it’s sold over 1 million copies of the game, one thing to note, however, is that a lot of these were not sold at the full retail price. I know many people who got it in bundles, or on sale for under $10.
Then came Flight School, this was a bit of a strange one, they said they created it to bring beginners into the community but the features of it were incredibly limiting and in the end, they only managed the sell 26,370 copies before they cancelled the title on 7th April 2017.
Then came Flight Sim World, it was known from the start that Dovetail would make a stand-alone simulator for the masses, but it took far longer than they were anticipating. They planned to release it at the end of 2015 but it was finally released on the 18th May 2017.
What went wrong? Well, I believe, along with many others, that the key to a successful platform is getting addon developers on board to develop add-ons for your platform.
The problem, is that it’s a painful cycle of addon developers needing to know that a platform has a market share so people will buy their add-ons, but the platform itself not having a market share because people won’t by a sim with no add-ons.
The platform won’t be successful without add-ons and the addon developers won’t go to the platform without it being somewhat successful.
Stephen Hood, the Creative Director at Dovetail Games said that they were not worried about developers “not having the appetite” to make compatibility for their sim because “if we get it right people [developers]will naturally gravitate towards us”.
The sim itself also had problems, that some users just couldn’t overlook, the fact that it came with a very limited selection of aircraft, which couldn’t be fixed with add-ons, because there weren’t any available.
Dovetail Games’s Flight Sim World, sold between 50,000 & 100,000 copies but the amount of peak concurrent users yesterday, was only 62! The average playtime for the game was 5mins 17 seconds, not really signs of the sim being a commercial success.
The development team were clearly aware of the problems with player numbers because in the statement announcing the closure of development they said: “we regrettably don’t see a clear direction that will allow us to keep to the development time we’d want, alongside the player numbers we need.”
What’s next for Dovetail and Flight Simulation? Well, after repeated calls, they’re declining to comment at this time. They were, however, in a full company meeting this morning so, could it be the end for Dovetail and Flight Simulation? I think it’s highly likely.