Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Job cuts ground Flight Simulator

MS Flight Simulator X
The tenth edition of Microsoft's Flight Simulator was released in 2006

The future of Microsoft's long running Flight Simulator series has been cast into doubt, after the software maker US laid-off the entire development team.

Microsoft says it is "committed" to the series, despite shutting the Aces studio when it cut 5000 jobs.

But third party developers say Microsoft needs to outline its plans for the game in more detail.

MS Flight Simulator is arguably the longest running computer game series ever, first launched back in 1982.

Nels Anderson, founder of enthusiast website said the studio closure was a "dark day" for the flight sim market.

Speaking to the BBC he said he was baffled by the decision.

"Microsoft have apparently cancelled a 27 year franchise. Flight sims were one of the few things about Microsoft people actually liked. It made them money and had an enormous following.

"To cancel something like that is an amazing thing to do," he said.

Just Flight's director, Dermot Stapleton, which publishes third party add-ons for MS Flight Simulator, told the BBC that as Microsoft had only announced the studio closure, people would have to draw their own conclusions as to what future plans the firm had in store for the game.

"It's the end of the line for their in-house development studio, but that doesn't mean it's the end of the line for the game.

"All Microsoft did was name a group of developers working on the game Aces Studio and now, as they've laid them and a load of other developers off, they have been somewhat hoisted on their own petard.

Flight Simulator 1.0
The Flight Simulator series made its debut back in 1982

"My guess is that Microsoft will now licence the code to a third party developer and then cross that "cash bridge" when they come to it."

Deja vu

But Nels Anderson was more pessimistic, saying Microsoft had done something similar with its Train Simulator series.

"Microsoft announced a sequel to MS Train Simulator back in 2003. A year later, they shelved the project. Three years later, they announced a new version, that too was cancelled.

"I think this gives us an indication as to what is in store for Flight Simulator," he said.

Most people agree that the latest incarnation, MS Flight Simulator X, has at least three to four years use before it starts to show its age. Even today, many still use the five year old Flight Simulator 2004, rather than FSX.

Speaking to the BBC, Derek Davis, editor of PC Pilot magazine, said there was a silver lining to the bad news.

"I don't know what the eventual fate of Microsoft's Flight Simulator series will be, but I think we're going to see a rise in sales and an increase in third-party development.

"There is now some stability to be had - we're all going to be using FSX for some time - and that is going to make it far easier for developers to produce new aircraft."

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