Microsoft Flight Simulator is returning, 13 years after the launch of Flight Simulator X. It's a long time to go without what used to be a PC mainstay, with 12 games appearing between 1982 and 2006. Phil Spencer, Microsoft's head of gaming, hopes that its revival is more evidence of its renewed commitment to PC.
It was revealed after Microsoft's Game Pass for PC announcement, and Spencer says Microsoft wanted to use the opportunity to put its PC games in the spotlight.
"I didn't know if the PC community was going to be watching or not, but we went Flight Sim, we went Age, we went Wasteland," he says. "We want to make sure we're building games and supporting games that the PC community... we want to respect what they love."
Microsoft apparently has some pilots on its teams—big surprise—who are fans of the series, and they've been passionate about bringing it back. I guess sometimes you don't want to drive all the way to the hanger. It's also got a community that has stuck around. After Gamespy shut down, killing Flight Simulator X's multiplayer, Dovetail Games got the license and released a Steam edition with multiplayer and Windows 8.1 support. It launched in 2014.
"Flight Sim was a game in our past that sold millions and millions of units and had a very, very passionate community—in fact, they're still out there," says Spencer. There had to be a reason to resurrect the series, though. "Can we do something new with Flight Sim? Can we actually move it forward in an interesting way?"
The result is something that, judging by the trailer, looks impossibly vast and real. Spencer says that 2 petabytes of geographical data is used to seamlessly stitch together Earth. The trailer rushes past cities, swoops down so we can see elephants and giraffes hanging around and then soars the mountains for some truly incredible views.
Spencer warned the team: "You're going to have to put at the bottom that it's in-game, because nobody is going to believe that's in the game."
Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming next year.
Read our full interview with Phil Spencer.