Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming to Xbox Series X/S in spring 2021

Microsoft Flight Simulator is finally jumping the digital pond from PC to consoles. Microsoft and developer Asobo confirmed the port is coming in spring of 2021 during The Game Awards today. This means a whole new audience will get a chance to experience its realistic flight models and lifelike replication of Earth on Xbox Series X and S.

In the leadup to The Game Awards, I spoke with Microsoft Flight Simulator director Jorg Neumann about the port. Neumann and his team are excited about Flight Simulator on console specifically because it’s a new audience. And so they’re treating this as a serious opportunity to grow the fanbase for aviation simulations.

“It’s just been awesome to bring a genre for the first time to consoles,” said Neumann. “We obviously have the flight sims that are native to PCs, but there’s also an audience of people who create planes and airports. And they’ve already made like 500 planes and airports in three months, which is just crazy. And they’re super excited because they all feel like we’re going to meet an all-new, audience that might fall in love with flight sims.”

Cramming Flight Simulator onto console comes with two major challenges. Getting the game to run is tough, but it’s doable thanks to the way Asobo built the game. And the other hurdle is mapping the game to a controller, which is something the studio was already doing for the PC version.

As for that first obstacle, the key is streaming in assets from the cloud combined with the improved power of the CPU and GPU in the Xbox Series X/S.

“A lot of the game is still local compute,” said Neumann. “It’s mostly the data streaming that’s a real paradigm shift, though.”

Neumann explained that fitting a world onto a disc was always the most difficult part of building flight sim games. On Xbox, Flight Sim would have to ship on 1.7 million discs if it didn’t have the cloud.

And then when it comes to the controller, it all comes down to intelligently mapping out combo button presses.

“It’s the power of multiplication,” he said. “Players just need to get used to the language of the controller. But if you look at modern fighter jets, they do so much right on the stick.”

Asobo is focusing on Xbox Series X/S. That means no Flight Simulator for Xbox One S and Xbox One X — at least not yet.

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