Microsoft Flight, the successor to the company’s discontinued Flight Simulator franchise, will be distributed starting this spring as a free PC download that provides a basic version of the game at no cost, with the option to pay for additional content.

Microsoft Game Studios announced the plan this morning, adopting a variation of the “free-to-play” pricing model that has been rising in popularity in the video-game business.

In a modern twist, the game will include the ability to fly a virtual version of the light sport aircraft ICON A5, described as the “jet ski for the skies,” prior to the aircraft’s real-world production at the end of the year. It’s featured in a new teaser video, above, promoting the game.

Microsoft says the new PC game will aim for a more “universal appeal” than the traditional Flight Sim, with options for simple or complex controls, a persistent online world and elements of social networking built into the game.

The company closed Aces, the team that was responsible for the nearly 30-year-old Flight Simulator franchise, as part of its broader cutbacks nearly three years ago. It was a highly controversial move among the hard-core flight simulation community.

Here’s how the company describes its free-to-play plans for Microsoft Flight …

After downloading “Microsoft Flight” for free, players can jump into hours of exciting gameplay on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In addition, players who sign in to their Games for Windows – LIVE account automatically receive additional free content, including the legendary Boeing Stearman plane, supplementary missions, and access to Achievements and an Online Pilot Profile. Those looking to deepen their experience can purchase and download additional content that adds new aircraft, regions and customization options. The frequently released new content for “Microsoft Flight” includes daily aerocache challenges and updates that make every flight unique and fun.

A signup form for the closed beta is available here, and the company says it will preview Microsoft Flight at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

See additional coverage by VentureBeat and Kotaku.

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  • Guest

    Congratulations to Microsoft! I’m glad that such a venerable company is joining the freemium revolution.

    • Guest

      Actually, you’re late to the party, they joined it with AoE Online.

      Which flopped.

      No doubt the flight team studied the AoE experience very closely. Remains to be seen how this version will be received by hardcore flight sim users (who were the previous products bread and butter). Keep in mind this project was initiated three years ago when the previous FS team was laid off as a part of he early ’09 purge. The world has moved on in the 3 years since. In all likelyhood this will be the last MS flight product, it just doesn’t fit w/ the strategy. Honestly, I’m surprised it’s actually going to release.

    • Freeforall

      It’s free for a reason…

  • FireSteveBallmerYesterday

    This story just gets dumber and dumber. First they kill the still popular Flight Sim and basically abandon PC gaming, angering the faithful and causing them to jump ship to others. Then a few years later they do a 180 and bring it back, at considerable cost, only now it’s a freemium model which will probably struggle to even breakeven.

    It’s this kind of back and forth, direction-less strategy that has led to MS’s declining growth, reputation, and valuation.

    • Guest

      What’s so upsetting about freemium? Rovio, which makes a little freemium game called Angry Birds, is valued at $1.2 billion. Imagine if Microsoft Flight achieves even a tenth of that!

      • Guest

        It’s a great model, if you have the right product for it. Fight seems like an odd match for it, but we’ll see.

      • Guest

        Nothing wrong with freemium if you’re a small startup and not a megacap. This is unlikely to be anywhere near as successful as AB. And whatever return it does generate, assuming there is one, will be”valued” at the company’s overall actual multiple, not some insane Rovio internal one.

  • Chrisahendri

    As a huge fan of the franchise, I must admit I’m disappointed.  This franchise needed a huge renewal from base-code upward.  It was an extremely CPU intensive engine that took little to no advantage of GPU advances in recent years.  An update to this franchise in which code was completely rebuilt could finally produce a vivid, rich and detailed SIMULATION that has been sought for literally decades.

    The Angry Birds approach should not be applied to this franchise.  I had hoped they would aim higher then that.

    • Guest

      Or maybe MS could use some of that $9 billion in R&D to come up with something similar to Google’s Native Client technology.

  • Jason Gerard Clauss

    LOL. Some of the responses on here are priceless. “Angry Birds duz it, so Flyte can tooooo!!” Yeah. The shittiest and most inexplicably popular mobile app does it, so a game which is supposed to be the gold standard in realistic home flight simulation can too.


    • Emilvrn


      • Jason Gerard Clauss


  • Jason Gerard Clauss

    Please God, do not let Microsoft screw this up. If they do, I will have to abandon my belief in the free market and insist that the government impose quality standards on flight simulators.

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