I wasn’t really planning on making this a three part series, but based on the response to the two first parts I feel the need to address some of the comments I have received and tidy up a few loose ends, because the big elephant is still in the room.

Future Flightsim: Part 1 - Prepar3D

Future Flightsim: Part 2 - Dovetail

Thank you very much for all the feedback and comments you sent me! I think maybe most of the commenters were from the P3D camp because you did not agree with me at all! I got a lot of great comments on Facebook, not many likes, but the discussion was civilized and didn’t end in flame wars. Not bad. You did have some very good points about P3D and Dovetail Games, but my main positions have not changed.

The big elephant in the P3D room is the license issue. The EULA. Those who don’t understand it are confused. And those who do understand it choose to ignore it.

There are of course many legitimate users of P3D who understand the EULA and use the sim according to the EULA. I’m not talking about these people. I’m talking about what is probably the majority of P3D users right now; home consumer entertainment users.

Everybody talks about the P3D license. Many people seem to be confused about what it really means to them; am I allowed to fly this sim? Am I not allowed to fly this sim? Some people don’t care about or ignore the EULA; you buy it, hit ok on the EULA and off you fly, done deal. The confusion and discussions became so frequent and heated that Avsim had to ban all further discussion about the P3D license from their forum.

Why doesn’t Lockheed Martin step in and clean up this mess? Do they even care about people ignoring their EULA? The job of any EULA is to regulate the relationship between the developer and the customer. But the most important job of the EULA is to protect the developer, copyright owners and their interests.

The P3D EULA is clear. LM has stepped in and set the record straight. Read Avsim’s interview with LM. It seems the flightsim community doesn’t really want to accept LM’s answer though. Lockheed Martin's representative says you can’t buy or use P3D if you are going to be flying the sim just for fun. Period.

What we have today is a small group of people, relative to the total flightsim market, ignoring the P3D EULA and using the sim for entertainment purposes anyway. This doesn’t hurt the user and more importantly it doesn’t hurt LM or MS. So who cares right? Nobody. For now.

Enter Dovetail Games. They have bought a similar license to LM’s from Microsoft. Except this one covers the consumer entertainment market. Imagine for a second that P3D gains a sizable market share, like a 70% majority that FSX has today, and DTG's new sim is sitting at 20%. There is no way that 70% of the market is going to be all commercial/military/academic use customers. DTG is going to see this and send lawyers to MS, because they actually paid MS for the right to sell to the consumer entertainment market. LM did not. Consequently MS will to have to send lawyers to LM and LM will be forced to do something about it.

When the EULA violations get out of hand and starts hurting the developer or copyright owners, somebody is going to have a problem with it. If P3D conquers a sizable share of the total flightsim market, which is probably made up of 90% or more home entertainment use customers, it is not going to sit well with MS/DTG. I don’t think it will ever get to this point though. P3D will never have that kind of market share because LM can’t and have no desire to market P3D to the entertainment consumer masses.

P3D is not the next “king of flightsims” because of it's EULA. We simply can’t just all ignore the EULA and hope for the best.

I do not have anything against P3D as a sim. P3D is a great sim. I will happily start developing for P3D if and when I find it beneficial for Coolsky. I will actually say I’m probably more likely to start developing for P3D at some point in the future than not. I have been wanting to get into commercial use products for a while, but right now I’m not ready to make the move, and P3D is not ready either in terms of market share. I will possibly see you all on the other side sometime in the future.

P3D is here to stay. It is a fine special use product and there is most definitely a market for it. The majority of simmers are not looking for a special use product like this though. They’re looking for a good entertainment use sim. P3D will probably find its place as the go-to sim for real aviation training and for the hardcore simmer crowd who chooses to ignore the EULA and uses it for fun anyway. The rest needs an entertainment use sim.

Plus it would be a super bonus if this entertainment use sim is under active development and is being marketed to the masses – as opposed to being abandoned by the developer years ago and now acting as a people drain to our hobby.

This brings me to my second main argument against P3D as the next “king of flightsims”. We need a sim that can bring in new people to our hobby and community. Over 11,000 people answered the 2003 Avsim demographic survey. Less than 3,000 people answered the 2013 survey. We are losing people from our hobby and community every day.

We need a steady stream of new simmers for this hobby to thrive like it once did. P3D will never be able to take this position and provide that stream of new simmers because LM can’t, isn’t allowed, and thus has no desire to market P3D to the masses.

I think the announced new Dovetail sim at least has the potential to become the driving force we need behind our hobby that Microsoft and the MSFS franchise once provided. Obviously, there are major difference between Microsoft and Dovetail, their marketing power and ability to reach new customers. But who drives new simmers into our community today? Nobody.

Will the new sim from Dovetail Games survive in today’s cut-throat flightsim market? I strongly believe the key to survival is backwards compatibility for the old FSX addons. Not necessarily 100% compatibility where you simply pop your old addons into the new sim, but a level of compatibility that makes it easy for developers to move their products over to the new sim.

If you want to succeed with a new sim today, you need a solution for the addon market. You create the addon market by opening up your sim and bringing in 3rd party developers. To attract 3rd party developers you need to make it low cost and low risk for developers to start developing for your new sim, especially if you want them to come onboard early. Some level of backwards compatibility from the old sim is how you solve this problem.

Backwards compatibility means the 3rd party developer can use large parts of the product they already have which is a lot cheaper and much more cost effective than starting from scratch, thus lowering the cost and risk involved for the 3rd party developers. This is especially important if you want developers to come to your sim before you already have a sizable market share.

Developing a complex aircraft today literally takes years. As a 3rd part developer you don't want to start a project and then two years down the road discover that the new sim you were targeting didn't really catch on as you had hoped.

The key is to make it easy for users and developers to make the move.

I am fully aware of the fact that I may of course be wrong in my assumptions, predictions and guesses about the Microsoft/Dovetail Games license deal and what’s to come from that. I call it as I see it though. If proven wrong, I will swiftly change my position without any remorse or embarrassment. 

Here’s wishing you blue skies – in whatever flightsim you choose to fly.

- Espen

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