The mainstream flightsim community has been hit this week by the announcement that Flight Sim World is ceasing development. Whether any one of us as individuals supported that sim or not is a mute point, but what cannot be ignored is the fact that the happenings in any part of the community do have a knock-on impact on the entire community, and the ripples of this disturbance in the pond will ultimately lap at the shores of the AFS2 world too.
I am not going to get on a high horse or podium here and prognosticate on what should have been or what should now be, that is not why I am writing this. However, I am encouraging a moment of reflection that I hope both IPACS as a company, and we AFS2 users as a group will at least give due attention to.
To IPACS I recommend this. The demise of Flight Sim World was preceded a few years before with the demise of Microsoft Flight. While the execution of the programs was different, as were management teams, both these platforms were envisioned as bringing a breath of fresh air into the flight simulation genre and something new and exciting for members of the community as a whole. Neither platform began with the intention of failing, yet both did. So IPACS, this may be a time to ask yourself the following questions. The answers do not need to become public, but the questions really do need to be asked around your boardroom table.
1. IPACS should ask, is our own goal for AFS2 any different from the goals of these two (now closed) platforms? - If the goal is the same, and the target market is the same, then to ignore what has just happened is to miss an opportunity to reflect on the state of the market, and to learn important lessons from history.
2. IPACS management should also ask, what can they see that Dovetail Games did right in the development of their sim, and what can they see (in their opinion) that Dovetail Games did wrong. This should include everything from development schedule, customer communication, marketing strategy implementation, perceived market positioning, and publicity. The answers should not be considered as judgement calls on or against Dovetail Games, they should be considered to be guideposts to assist IPACS in navigating the waters of our community and the market it represents.
3. IPACS should also ask if there is any way they can pick up some of the development team members of FSW. There are highly-competent, flight simulation experienced programmers without a job now. It is a unique resource that someone is going to grab. Can any of these people be encouraged to join IPACS and help accelerate the development of AFS2?
4. IPACS should also ask this. Is there an opportunity here to leverage the gap in the marketplace? The users of FSW were looking for something new or they would not have bought that program. Why not create an incentive to bring some of those users into the AFS2 fold? Both platforms were marketed through Steam, can a coupon code be created at Steam where an existing verified purchaser of FSW can buy AFS2 at a discount? Give these people a chance to try the "something new" that you offer.
Now, what about we AFS2 users, we Flightsim community members? - We also need to learn lessons here. We are all part of the same community, regardless of which simulators we use. The death of any new platform in this market is significant to every single one of us. So, we need to ask...
1. What did we do, or not do, that could have had an impact on FSW? Did we buy it and support it? Some did and some did not, and that is how it should be. BUT, if we did not buy it, were we part of the group who shot it down in flames at every opportunity? Did we encourage or denigrate? It is so easy in this community to become opinionated, and I have been guilty of that in this forum too. So maybe the FSW experience is telling us to look in a mirror as well.
2. As a community, we need to ask what can we do to support the overall community? It does not matter if we do not purchase every sim platform, every addon, every magazine, etc. BUT we must have at heart the best interests of the cohesive community, or we may be the ones who ultimately lose out.
The truth is this, if Microsoft Flight failed, and Flight Sim World failed, there are no guarantees that AFS2 won't also fail at some stage. However, we can all increase the odds of success by asking intelligent questions when a player does fail. Asking these questions, and digging for the answers, then implementing them, these are the actions that can leverage lessons from history.
We do not need to get into a deep discussion here, that's not what I am recommending. But I hope IPACS as a company is taking note of what just happened with intelligent market awareness, and I hope we in the community are also asking what can we do to never allow another new sim to go to an early grave with all its potential buried with it.