Flight Simulation Association's Launch Met with Harsh Backlash

March 11, 2021

Yesterday, the co-founders of FlightSimExpo formally launched Flight Simulation Association, aiming to advance flight simulation “as a hobby, a pilot training aid, and a means to explore the passion for aviation”.

However, the backlash from the community has been fierce. It has prompted users to turn aggressively on some developers that partnered with FSA, with a couple of comments containing abuse and profanity.

One developer decided to sever their partnership with FSA less than 24 hours later, and FSA issued a statement that asked for the community’s advice on a key number of points.

As noted in the press release presented to Threshold, Flight Simulation Association is aimed at new and experienced flight simulation users and largely driven in part by the community.

Featuring webinars, guides, discounts and more, its founders envision a future in which developers and users can utilise the service to help drive the hobby forward, but its $30 annual subscription has been the subject of heated debate.

Shortly after the launch, co-founder Evan Reiter posted a comment to FSElite’s news article defending their business model, though admitted some of the content behind the paywall can be found elsewhere for free.

“We realize this is a new concept for us all, and it's not for everyone. But with a free trial you can save 10% on almost all Orbx products, and for $30, you get access to a pile of discounts from top developers. Can you find them during sales? Sure...but probably not all at once, in once place, with a definite end date.

“If you're an experienced simmer, the learning content and guides may not be for you (though we welcome you to read them and share any thoughts with us through the site). You can probably find all of this content on YouTube anyway...though maybe not a development update from X-Plane or a scenery design preview with Flightbeam. But we hope they're meaningful for those new to the hobby.

“Okay, let the shelling begin!”

As more flight simulation users continued to express their dislike for the paywall behind much of the site’s content, Flight Simulation Association turned to social media to ask how best to progress their concept.

“This...did not go as expected. Help,” was posted to Twitter, before being deleted a short while later. The tweet pointed to a statement published to Facebook, given below.

“We hear you – this is not going well. The ‘something BIG’ didn’t help, and there are underlying issues too. At the same time, we think there’s potential: more than 1,500 people have created accounts and some of the crazier ones are even subscribing 😊

“The intention here is to build something for the future. For new simmers, to help them understand and find all these great free resources that you sometimes need to know about to get to. And for experienced simmers, to find ways to keep us connected between the big flight sim shows. Not necessarily behind a paywall. 

“We want to engage with you to figure out how we fix this, together as a community. Including, if it comes to it, pulling the plug entirely. 

“Some of the things we know we need to do:

“1. Have (another) group of experienced simmers look over the Guides and share their feedback. (This has actually been done a few times, but there’s more we can do.)

“2. Add a place for people to submit the great free resources we’re talking about: the YouTube channels, reddit, Discords…and when a few people have suggested one, make sure that’s available. 

“3. Better understand if this model works. We thought a “Costco of flight sim” – pay a few dollars a month to get enhanced pricing – made sense. It resonated well with the people we spoke to, including plenty of everyday simmers like us. But it’s obviously not been well-received. 

“So, please help: we want your constructive, helpful feedback. Do we remove the paywall? Reduce the annual fee? Do we need to pause the site while we look at these things? Or should we just go back to running conferences?”

A look at the responses sees a large majority of users requesting the paywall be abolished with many others not seeing the need for such an ‘association’ to be developed in the first instance, with the reviews section on their Facebook page making for more grim reading.

Some users saw potential in the initiative however, with praise given to the website's design and the idea of an alliance for users.

The homepage of Flight Simulation Association's website

Elsewhere, it is a similar story with the paywall taking centre-stage in discussions and a few declaring FSA a scam, based on the content that is already freely available.

More than 50 developers partnered up with Flight Simulation Association to make it a reality, but iniBuilds decided to pull the plug shortly after the launch, following an assessment of the views of their users.

“At iniBuilds we take our community and customer's feedback very seriously, and it is our commitment to ensure that such feedback is taken onboard and consequential action is implemented,” said the developer through their social media platforms.

“We have observed the community's feedback on the Flight Simulation Association, and as a result, we've decided to withdraw iniBuilds as a participating company to be in line with what our community and customers expect from us as an organization.

“We wish FSA and the team the best in their future endeavours.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope you appreciate our steps to remedy the situation.”

iniBuilds had initially offered subscribers a 5% discount on their products.

The homepage of Flight Simulation Association's website

For other participating companies, the launch tarnished their reputation somewhat.

Aerosoft, Laminar Research and Honeycomb Aeronautical, having shared news of the launch, were met with unhappy users who expressed their frustrations to them in different ways. One user directed an explicit comment to Honeycomb that highlighted the stark shift to subscription-based services in flight simulation.

Homeycomb Aeronautical posted this image to social media, promoting the launch

Developer Parallel 42 saw FSA differently after assessing the business model and their invitation to join.

“For the record, ‘Something Big’ for some, is a road bump for others. It's all about perception,” they wrote to social media.

“When we were sent information on Flight Sim Association (FSA), we chose not to participate on the grounds of not agreeing with the business model. And it is, a business.”

User reaction to their view on FSA was met with overwhelming support.

Interestingly, the creation date of Flight Simulation Association’s social media pages suggests the concept has been in the works for at least eight months.

Since requesting feedback on Facebook, the team has yet to publicly respond to any users or issue any further statements.

Flight Simulation Association’s website is available to view here.

Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.