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How Flight Simulator could usher in a new era of cloud based games

Microsoft’s latest entry in its long-running Flight Simulator series has the entire world available to fly around in. It’s the start of cloud-based gaming.

Being able to travel the world and fly over your own house inside a video game was an impossibility even just a few years ago. The processing and downloading power required to digitally store Earth in its entirety was simply not available, yet Microsoft’s newest entry in its Flight Simulator series has managed to do just that.

Flight Simulator is one of Microsoft’s oldest and most beloved gaming franchises. It’s over 37 years old and pre-dates the company’s first Windows operating system, beginning as a humble collection of basic interfaces and coding in the early eighties. The franchise has become far more technically impressive and ambitious in the decades since and now, thanks to cloud gaming, players can literally explore anywhere around the globe. That includes North Korea, Paris, the Alps, literally anywhere.

YouTubers have been making videos exploring novel locations that would otherwise be inaccessible in real life. They’re racking up views and creating significant buzz, and the newest game is predicted to generate several billion in hardware sales over the next few months. All of this opens up new possibilities for cloud gaming and allows even the most ambitious of ideas to be realised by developers.

What is cloud based gaming and how is it used?

Cloud-based gaming is a new tech innovation that allows assets and locations to be pulled from external servers and into games remotely rather than being forced to have them all stored locally on your machine. This frees up considerable space for developers to work with, allowing for much bigger spaces and more detailed models and geometry.

Using Microsoft servers and online clouds to remotely generate visuals also means that you don’t necessarily need a flashy PC to run games like Flight Simulator. Most of the heavy work is done on Microsoft’s end and as long as your internet connection isn’t the stuff of nightmares you’ll probably be able to run it on a moderate, mid-end computer. The only real catch is that you need to be online at all times, making cloud games inaccessible to many rural players with limited access to high speed broadband.

Despite these limitations, cloud servers and games continue to slowly permeate the mainstream. We’re seeing new platforms like Google Stadia run entirely on cloud servers, negating the need for hardware or flashy consoles on the user end. Sony similarly has PlayStation Now, a monthly subscription that lets players stream games directly to their console without downloads.

How could this change the future of games?

We’re already seeing the industry shift toward a more service orientated monetisation model that keeps users paying monthly for things like PlayStation Plus, Game Pass, Google Stadia, and cosmetics in games such as Fortnite and Fall Guys. Cloud gaming and platforms will only encourage this further, as new content and assets can be brought into titles without hefty updates or new hardware. Essentially, games become entirely streamed and managed from a company’s end, allowing for more control and continued lifespans for singular games. Fortnite has been profitable for years, for example, instead of only making the majority of its cash at its initial release.

The scope and possibility of games can also be increased almost infinitely. The developers of Flight Simulator have promised more detailed environments to be added to the cloud in the future, with regular updates that include fresh content. The game will continue to grow and get bigger, far beyond any hardware limitations that have previously held titles back. It’ll also become more of a necessity as games become increasingly demanding and hardware intensive. Some of the biggest titles now require 100GBs or more of storage – cloud gaming could eradicate this problem entirely.

Flight Simulator is the first of its kind to show the true potential of cloud games and how they can now exceed even the wildest imaginations of players from a few decades ago. How publishers and creators will use new emerging tech is currently up for debate, but one thing is for certain – it’s very exciting.


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