Has Microsoft Flight Simulator Been Canceled after 29 Years?

By  |  Friday, January 23, 2009 at 9:19 am

Microsoft Flight SimulatorReports this morning have it that Microsoft’s venerable Flight Simulator game may be realistically simulating the fate of Pan Am, Eastern, and TWA: Supposedly the Microsoft layoffs announced yesterday include the program’s entire development team, and it’s therefore being discontinued. I hope it’s a false alarm. I’ve never sat inside FS’s cockpit even once, but I feel like it’s been part of my life for almost as long as I’ve been using personal computers (that would be 31 years as of this summer).

Some of the obituaries I’ve been reading for Flight Simulator say it was born in 1982. It’s really even more venerable than that. That may have been when Microsoft first released a flight sim, but its first version was based on one from a company called SubLOGIC, founded by Bruce Artwick, and his version debuted back in January of 1980. Even if you only start counting in 1982, I think that Flight Simulator is Microsoft’s second-oldest product (Visual Basic, the great-great-great grandchild of Microsoft Basic for the Altair, the company’s first product, is the oldest.)

Artwick’s flight simulator ran on Radio Shack’s TRS-80 at first, and for the time, it was just as graphically impressive as any later version of Microsoft Flight Simulator would be–the very notion of 3D graphics on a home computer was a little stunning. Even when all you were looking at was a screen shot in a small ad in an issue of Creative Computing.

Here are screenshots of the TRS-80 version of SubLOGIC Flight Simulator (which I borrowed from the Czech Flight Simulator History Site) and of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the current version. Pop quiz: Can you tell which is which without peeking?

Microsoft Flight Simulator

SubLOGIC Flight Simulator for TRS-80


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25 Comments For This Post

  1. dosequis Says:

    Used to love the game. However, I have not played it in 4 years or more. Still sad to see it go.

  2. alanszlosek Says:

    I played flight simulator 4 obsessively when I was in Middle School. I loved hopping in a Learjet and flying under the Golden Gate bridge, landing on aircraft carriers, etc. Dogfights were pretty fun too.

  3. Todd Says:

    I started playing FS on the apple IIe when it was a SubLOGIC product. It is the one MS product that always stayed true to its roots.

    If the rumor is true, I am sad to see it go.

  4. eep! Says:

    Ah, no finer thrill then when I successfully landed the 737 upside down on the aircraft carrier.

    For some reason that confused Flight Sim 95.

  5. Leslie Says:

    When did FS become a MicroSoft developed product? Last I knew it was fully developed by an outside development company and MicroSoft merely put their name on it.

  6. Hackett Says:

    It will be VERY sad if they actually pull this game. It has always been one of my favorites.

  7. Corey K Says:

    I was part of the Flight Sim/Combat Flight Sim art team from 2000 to 2004, and it was always developed in-house. Lots of second party assets were used for scenery, but all aircraft, airports, and cockpits were developed by full-time Microsoft employees. Apparently, recent budgets have forced some of the actual art production out-of-house, though prototyping was still strictly done in Redmond.

    This is a sad day; I still know quite a few of the artists and developers on that team, and they are some of the best in the business.

  8. joebelten Says:

    this is a myth

  9. Steve Says:

    sad.. and says a lot about how the world, and especially the US has become more and more oriented toward instant gratification.
    I’m greatly indebted to their series.. which taught me critical thinking skills and more as I grew with it. So satisfying and educational. Kids today want nothing but instant payoff and could care less about challenging realism. Gran Tourismo may be an acception, but it’s still no flight sim in complexity.

    I wish it were the 90’s, when sims were all over the shelves…

  10. Nicholas E Says:

    As a math instructor an a lover of flight and the physics of flights
    I’ll be heart broken is FS no longer available, I use it as a learning in my classroom.

  11. Ciro Araujo Siebeneichler Says:

    This was a terrible mistake… Flight simulator has been for me the most important way to treine aviation comands, i was looking to radar situations, best terrain and visual flights with google earth… It was a big mistake retire it for the continuation… I am waiting for a return…

  12. Henri Says:

    We must bear in mind, that Flight Simulator is not a game, but a simulator, eventhough not accurated, but close enough. Many people use it as a form of relaxation, so do I.

    We, as flight simmers request Microsoft to repond to the rumors of stopping this awesome product or not.

  13. Ernie Webber Says:

    You have got to be kidding! I have had every flight sim they made since the beginning. If its true its a sad day in the flt sim world.

  14. Art Granda Says:

    Yep, I had the very first production of FS ….. bought it at Radio Shack for a little over 50 bucks. 5.25 inch floppy, still have it BTW. All the history aside, I think it is about time they pull the plug on this franchise. Except for the much improved graphics, the flight mechanics are not very much different from what we used in FS1, flying the Meigs/Champaign circuit over and over, interspersed with generous amounts of dogfighting over the 2D mountain ranges. All in wonderful CGA (4 different colors, magenta, cyan, black, and white) at 320×200 fullscreen resolution.

    However, packaging and re-packaging the same old code can only be done for so long. A “flight” simulator is about flight after all, and that was MSFS’ weakest link. No doubt their product looked the best, and as an aircraft cockpit and systems simulator, it was impressive.

  15. Flight Simulator Yoke Says:

    I cant believe they ditched it. How could they lose money when so many people used it. I am sure someone else will pick it up anyway.

  16. planes142 Says:

    is there a chance that they will start making it again?

  17. CALLAN H Says:

    i think theyre are some great new flight sim games on the market taking more of the share so maybe its time for ms to move on

  18. stuart goldhawk Says:

    A very sad day for flight simulator, I just hope that flight simulator lives on and Microsoft sees what a mistake they have made a flight sim fan

  19. Simon Says:

    It is very disappointing that they would cancel this great game after so many years alough i have found heaps of websites with flight sim games that are just as good if not better one of which is http://www.flightsimgames.net which has a range of really good flight sim games

  20. Andrew Merrill Says:

    I too am a flight sim fan. And always will be… but if there are no develpoers around… no game:( It tears me up to see FS go… (if the rumor is true, which then, i hope not.)

  21. jesse Says:

    It’s really great to be able to fly some of these birds.
    I thank MS for the chance.
    It’s the closest us want to be pilots well ever get to the real thing, most of us. My only gripe is that I’m always changing computer parts and that really messes things up. But other wise it’s cool.


  22. zing Says:

    Make that 30 years now as it’s May 2nd, 2010. I just finally got an awesome i7 computer with tons of ram and an Nvidia GTX 470 card (and no it doesn’t over heat as ati fanboys want to claim. Nor is it noisy. It’s great!) And with that new hardware FSX is very fast on top settings. But now I have no new version to run. I wish Microsoft would reconsider.

  23. darren Says:

    It is a sad day when great games come to an end. But luckly for us technology keeps moving on, and there is other flight simulator games out there to test are skills. I am playing one at the minute that is up there with the best flightprosim.
    You can find it at http://www.flightsimulatornow.com/?p=43

  24. Market@flightsimulatorssoftware.com Says:

    Unfortunately too many people believe that flight simulators are just out of their finacial reach and this could not be further from the truth. With the explosion of aviation software and technology the door is open to any pilot to perfect their skills

  25. jk's discussion online Says:


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