The latest posting on the Microsoft Flight preview flight suggests something interesting: “Birds fly for for free…so can you… fly free”. Does this mean that Flight will have an MSRP of $0?
My guess: Probably not. The Flight team has already announced that Flight will have a persistent online mode (via the Live Games for Windows infrastructure), so I think that the ‘for free’ tag will apply to this service – buy the DVD, and you can fly online for free as much as you want. Most massive online games follow one of two model: Get the game for free and pay to play, or pay for the game and play for free (the WoW model). My understanding of this is that MS is going with the latter for their service.
Why don’t I believe that they will give the game away for free? The overall MS strategy seems to be to give for free only products which can make the money back via some tie-in with another MS product – so Office for instance – you can get a free Office online account if you are a regular Joe, but that’s because Office makes money from the enterprise space. Similarly, with Skydrive and the Windows Live Essentials tools – you can get them for free, but they make the money from the Windows and Windows Phone 7 sales which tie-in. I don’t see Flight as having a major tie-in in this way (not a big enough customer base, compared to those other products), so I think we should get ready with our $60 or whatever when it comes out.
In terms of new features, there is not a lot to see in this video – but the new shadow system is nicely evident. So the terrain casts shadows on itself quite nicely. Not just the terrain mesh, but the vegetation also:
Also, it is subtle, but the terrain definitely casts shadows on the aircraft – as the Maule turns, the shadow of the mountain moves over its wings (watch the video to see it more clearly):
I have heard on some podcasts disappointment that there is nothing really new to see in these previews. I think there will be lots of new stuff to see when Flight hits the streets. We have been promised an increase in performance over FSX out of the box – this is a really important feature. Second, the new shadow system, which points to a newly revamped graphics engine (and the Jan ’11 screen shots definitely point to better looking images compared to FSX out of the box), a new UI experience, and of course the persistent world to fly in (although how this will tie-in with add-on products will remain to be seen). Plus, I suspect we will see a lot more surprises. First, the product is still under development, so many features are probably not demoable yet. Second, there is a new move at MS to release features as a ‘Big Bang’ – so notice there have been no screen shots of what Windows 8 will look like, nor what features Office 15 will have, etc etc. I suspect they are going to keep more than a few secrets right up until release day.