The Argument for Console Based Simulators

December 12, 2023

Since the console release of Microsoft Flight Simulator in 2020, there's been a lot of nit-picking about what it means to be a “real” flight simmer. I've always found it quite strange that people who enjoy a hobby talk down to others who enjoy the same hobby simply because they're doing it differently. This phenomenon isn't specific to flight sim as it seems to be the case in pretty much any pastime. 

One of the main reasons I think this is unfair in the flight sim community is due to the cost of entry. To have a decent time with a PC-based flight simulator oftentimes you're looking at spending thousands of dollars. Personally, for me, if I hadn't had a few of the breaks I've had with finances I'd be doing my flights with an Xbox controller in my hand instead of sitting at my desk. 

The main reason the flight sim community as a whole should be embracing console and even mobile flight sim users is because the more of a market there is the more companies will be interested in creating products. If you had told me 10 years ago that one of the main hardware sets available for flight simulation was being made by Turtlebeach I'd probably have laughed myself into a coma, but alas here we are with lots of people opting for the Velocity One flight gear. This is just one of many examples of new companies coming into the flight sim space since the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator. 

One of my biggest gripes with console flight simulation is Microsoft's marketplace verification system as well as the inability of developers to make freeware available on the marketplace. An example I have of this is with the National STOL eSTOL competitions. As it stands right now all of the eSTOL scenery is available for anyone to download for free from, however, it's limited to PC users due to the aforementioned inability to release freeware on the MSFS Marketplace even though there's been a lot of interest from those who are console based. Recently we've seen developers like Got Friends release their freeware as a package for the least amount of money Microsoft will let you list items on the marketplace, and while this is helpful I feel it's still not fair to those who are console because while $5 may not be a lot to most it likely can be to a kid who's just getting into the hobby. 

While writing this article I reached out to Cpl Kitfox, who is a moderator from one of the largest Xbox-focused MSFS groups on Discord and he expressed that overall most developers have shown that they care about both the PC and console communities evenly. In contrast, some developers such as Aeroplane Heaven have made some unsavoury comments about the console community specifically. He also mentioned that the typical “gamer” stereotype doesn't exist in the console community because, for the most part, those with unsavoury intentions tend to get frustrated with the sim before too long and give up on it. When asked about what Microsoft and Asobo could do to improve the experience of console users he said “I've already concluded that FS 2020 has reached its limits technologically and physically. The ongoing debacles since SU13, or even as far back as WU13 have proven that. But, I'm also of the mind that FS 2020 was a learning experience for Asobo. This was a developer that had never done this before and such a huge undertaking from both MS and Asobo. I do believe 2024 will be an exhibition of the skills Asobo has gained from 2020 and put Microsoft Flight Simulator where it is meant to be.

I also had a chance to speak to content creator Pilot/0083 who makes YouTube content focusing on the Xbox release of MSFS. I asked him the same questions that I asked Cpl Kitfox and he was also able to offer me another great perspective. To start, Pilot/0083 has been using flight simulators for almost 25 years and he made the transition to the console version for “perceived simplicity in managing files” he initially started creating videos for personal enjoyment and eventually found himself receiving a lot of comments seeking assistance and this launched his channel into what it is now. He said that while there was initially a loud subset of “PC elitists who regarded themselves as custodians of the simulation community”. Of this subset, he says 2 years on there’s been a “significant transformation” and that collaboration between both PC and Xbox users is far more common now but there’s still work that needs to be done to dispel the misconceptions and foster inclusivity.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking to people in the flight sim community, I can tell you from personal experience that console users are just as knowledgeable and passionate as PC users. I’m not exactly sure what drives people into these ideologies that their way is the best but it's not the case. There are many uses for the sim and as long as you’re having a good time is that not the point?

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