Firstly I'm new to the board, a ex-pat Brit, now retired living in Medellin Colombia. In the past I was an avid FSX user, stopped and now considering returning to flight simulation. I've been looking at options, whether to go back to FSX (I still have access to all my many,many add-ons) or trying one of the newer packages like Aerofly or FSW. I've decided to go with Aerofly so my posting here isn't about the wisdom of that, but rather to share my thoughts and questions on the state of the flight simulation market.
One, I'm not going back to FSX although that would in many ways be the cheapest and most complete route. I've discounted that as it seems a retrograde step. I've too many memories of hours of tweaking and OOMs to want to go down that path, plus at some point FSX isn't going to be able to continue to develop. It's a dead end.
Presumably when FSX was developed Microsoft could put development money and resources without having too much concern about the return. It was a good shop window for the potential use of PCs and gaming in general. However that isn't true of the newer packages. Presumably for the smaller companies involved in building the new packages they have to be concerned about a commercial return and also juggle the difficult path of selling what are 'incomplete' systems to fund further development. So the question for anyone moving to the new packages is what is the likelihood that those packages will survive and prosper? For example in looking at FSW they seem to have less third party involvement (or at least less planned third party involvement) which I believe is fundamental to success in particular as the core development teams are not that big. One of the key reasons for my deciding to go with Aerofly is Orbx.
Noticeably none of the packages comes with a real 'mission statement'. Is the intent to become a FSX replacement - and by that I mean flight simulation as older users would understand. Looking at Aerofly there seems to be a significant emphasis on VR. To me (and that's probably showing my age) that emphasis seems unusual for a package in which at this point you fly the skies alone and there's no ATC or - and perhaps most importantly - what Flight Simmers would see as complex aircraft and weather packages . So, here the question is VR now crucial to the long term future of simulation packages? Crucial to the point of overriding - or at least delaying - features that were common in the older packages ten or more years ago?
Like I guess just about everyone else I've been impressed by those ORBX sceneries and then I've read the threads about the size of those packages. 80gb or more for the scenery for England? Again that takes us a long way from the FSX world of 'fly anywhere, anytime'. Now, I understand it's a different sort of experience, but what are going to be the hardware and download needs? Hardware is obviously improving all of the time but is flight simulation moving to a terabyte world? Where will the balance be between VFR and IFR usage? Is the eventual plan, with improved internet speeds that each user won't need to retain all of the data and instead we will be linked to a server that contains the finest data image of the world and we will consume it as we use it (the 'subscription' theory)?
In many ways the software developers have always had the poor end of the deal in flight simulation. We've all spent thousands (or dollars, pounds or euros) on our hardware trying to obtain the most immersive situation. In the new world of big data packages and VR and other simulating hardware presumably that equation moves in that direction even more significantly. Is fight simulation going to become a significantly more expensive hobby?
If it does become a more expensive hobby what does that do to the current user population? Will VR attract more new flight simmers (and probably importantly young ones) or will the cost be prohibitive? Is there a big enough market of hardcore flight simmers to keep the related software houses solvent? Will hardcore simmers value VR over complex FMCs?
So to bring it back to Aerofly from everything I've seen it's a good package with the ability to be great. How do others join the dots between where Aerofly is today and where it's going to be in say three and five years? As I said when I started looking I was trying to find a 'modern' FSX. Is that where Aerofly is going to take us, or is the new world of simming going to be something very different?