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What's the deal with Microsoft Flight Simulator's premium airports?

Pricing and business model explained.

The new Microsoft Flight Simulator has wowed ever since it was first unveiled last year, though the announcement of the release date contained details that had some people's jaws dropping for other reasons as it emerged to access a small number of high-profile 'premium' versions of airports such as Heathrow - an example that hit home seeing as it's so close to home - you'll have to buy the pricey premium edition.

"Honestly, when we started, our attitude was let's be very humble, and let's be generous," Microsoft's head of Flight Simulator Jorg Neumann told Eurogamer. "We basically said, let's put a bunch of planes in there, and let's put a bunch of airports down. The thing that's interesting about the flight sim world is that there's this community of third party developers, and they make a living making airports.

"We didn't fully realise that we need to tread very carefully, because if we make too much stuff, we're hurting them. And we don't want to hurt them. We want to have a thriving ecosystem, and they can be as creative as they want to be for years to come. We actually took out a bunch of airports and stopped development on a bunch of airports because it was too much."

Microsoft's Flight Simulator launches with a SDK, plus editors for planes, missions and scenery all for free - and it'll have its own in-game marketplace where people and established flight sim companies such as Orbx can trade.

"At some point we had to decide, in order to not basically mess with their pricing structure too much, what should we really put into the base game," said Neumann. "You'll see us not putting individual airports in our in-game store for a while, because we don't want to essentially dictate price. I think that would be the wrong way. People have made a lot of things, they have their own websites, they can bring them to our in-game store. And I think that between them and the consumer, they will work it out. But we don't want to interfere with that. So yeah, but when I saw that [reaction] I was like, oh, man, you know, I was like I wanted to, but I think it would have made it even harder for them."

Microsoft Flight Simulator comes out on August 18th. You can read our recent impressions of the hugely impressive endeavour over here.

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Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)

Xbox Series X/S, PC

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Martin Robinson avatar

Martin Robinson


Martin worked at Eurogamer from 2011 to 2023. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.