Microsoft Flight Simulator soon wraps its lengthy absence with an ambitious next endeavor, shaping up to be the premier playground for virtual aviators. This cloud-powered entry maps every inch of the globe with striking accuracy while injecting real-world data to spring its backdrop to life. The result promises unmatched scope and authenticity, with real potential to disrupt the simulation scene. It’s a technical marvel — but more than just a pretty face.
Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, headed to Windows 10 PCs later this fall.
Microsoft Flight Simulator release date
Flight Simulator has only talked Windows 10 PCs, but with Microsoft recently committing to bring its future titles to Steam, it appears the title could also ship outside the integrated Windows Store. The project also targets Xbox One consoles, likely extending to the next-generation Xbox Series X. However, Microsoft has been keen to stress that Flight Simulator 2020 is developed as a PC-first experience, with the console release likely to come later.
Expect additional news surrounding Flight Simulator availability later this year, potentially during Microsoft’s July Xbox Series X event.
Latest Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 news
Microsoft Flight Simulator Alpha 5 releases July 9
The Microsoft Flight Simulator team has dropped its latest development update, confirming plans to release the fifth major iteration of its alpha preview builds on July 9.
While we’re yet to receive a full changelog overview, Alpha 5 is likely the final major release ahead of the closed beta. Microsoft has reaffirmed plans to drop its closed beta later this July, with a firm release date to be unveiled on July 9.
How to play Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 alpha test
The Microsoft Flight Simulator Insider Program hosts the alpha, providing a platform to filter out the best testing candidates while providing clear channels for user feedback. Those looking to access early builds must register via the Flight Simulator website, while also using the Xbox Insider app for Windows 10.
While current world events and working from home pose new challenges, Flight Simulator testing appears on track. Microsoft plans to release its first Alpha 5 build on July 9, which marks its last alpha milestone ahead of launch. The transition into closed beta will follow, anticipated for a release in late July. The closed beta debut should see more players jump onboard while adding fewer new features, and moving to final polish.
What’s new with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
This return isn’t a simple iteration. Instead, Bordeaux-based talent, Asobo Studio, reinvents its approach by reworking gameplay fundamentals around the company’s cloud strengths. Its lifeline is a globe backed by Microsoft Azure, leveraging satellite data and artificial intelligence (AI) to portray unparalleled accuracy and fidelity across its locales. The title parses numerous datasets in real-time, creating an experience set to disrupt the simulation space.
The core of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is its mapping data pulled from Bing Maps, enhanced with photogrammetry, converting 3D scans of the environment into the game world. Other applied sources include terrain data for landscaping, foliage density mapping billions of trees, real-time meteorological data, and air traffic updates. The team has also bundled 37,000 manually edited airports, with their own air and ground traffic. These allow Microsoft to recreate environments down to the individual tree — a feat impressive even to the casual onlooker.
That 1:1 global representation makes visual flight rules (VFR) a viable reality, allowing pilots to navigate the globe by-eye.
Microsoft’s partnership with weather data firm Meteoblue powers those weather models, leveraging its legacy in prediction and historical records. The temperature, wind speed, humidity, pressure, and other data all factor into the simulation, visualizing the climate, with corresponding aerodynamics. There’s also the traditional day-night cycle, spotlighting new lighting systems to better represent cities after dark, and a seasonal rotation from blazing summers to heavy snow.
We’ve seen Microsoft keen to boast its new cloud systems, fully conveying shape, density, and fluffiness through 32 volumetric layers. That considers different cloud types, and once again, their aerodynamic influence.
The latest aircraft models also subdivide into thousands of surfaces, each affected by pressure, humidity, and speed. Real-time three-dimension calculations help the plane handle realistically, with Microsoft detailing examples of per-wind turbulence, or support for more advanced aerobatics.
These are just some of the systems that culminate in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, both an impressive technical showcase, and one of the most innovative entries in the genre for years.
Check out Microsoft Flight Simulator’s latest trailer
But that’s far from our only footage, with a wealth of teasers hosted via the official Microsoft Flight Simulator YouTube channel. The videos show all aspects of the title, including its ongoing “Feature Discovery” series, a deep dive into the sandbox, and the scale of its new simulation.
Does Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 have multiplayer?
The new Flight Simulator experience comes divided across several modes, with its “live players” setup representing the full realism you’d expect. Those lobbies recommend players to abide by all rules and regulations, with real-time live weather and air traffic reflected at all times. There’s also the choice of more casual free flights, with precise control over conditions and flight variables.
Microsoft has also discussed various technologies to ensure multiplayer handles as expected, including smooth flight animations that eliminate any form of judder. The game servers automatically optimize to only show planes with 200 kilometers, limited to the 50 closest pilots.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements
Microsoft has provided its overview of minimum, recommended, and ideal, spanning entry-level hardware through to the latest flagship combinations. While low-spec PCs should be capable of streaming its hyper-realistic world, its “recommended” or “ideal” builds will best represent its visual fidelity. You also need to consider the bandwidth requirements to stream the world in real-time. The full Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 requirements follow below.
|Minimum Spec||Recommended Spec||Ideal Space|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 3 1200
|Ryzen 5 1500X
|AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 2700X
|GPU||Radeon RX 570
Nvidia GTX 700
|Radeon RX 590
Nvidia GTX 970
Nvidia RTX 2080
|Storage||150 GB||150 GB||150 GB (SSD)|
|Minimum OS version||Windows 10 Nov 2019 update (1909)||Windows 10 Nov 2019 update (1909)||Windows 10 Nov 2019 update (1909)|
|Internet requirement||5 Mbps||20 Mbps||50 Mbps|
When is the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 closed beta?
With our first Alpha 5 build scheduled for July 9, we’re also expecting more details on a firm beta release date. With Microsoft hosting a dedicated Xbox game showcase this July, the final week of the month is probable.
Will Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 support VR?
The immersion granted by titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator understandably draws the inevitable question — what about virtual reality (VR) support? The project introduces substantial advancements in visual fidelity, even down various gauges and the leather grain lining the cockpit.
While VR represents a fraction of the simulation community, the development team has previously implied interest in delivering support to the growing userbase with headsets. Speaking with Windows Central back during its gameplay reveal, key figures suggested that VR remains on the radar for after launch. But it’s a matter of priorities, with no formal announcements made as of mid-2020.
Will Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 support modding?
Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Jorg Neumann, previously stated it hopes to bring an integrated marketplace to the project. The storefront aims to provide one-click installations for various content, providing a seamless experience to franchise newcomers. “I’m coming more from games. It’s kind of weird,” Neumann tells Windows Central. “I need to go to a website and drag stuff into a folder, like odd. I’m not used to that anymore.”
The Microsoft Flight Simulator software development kit (SDK) is already in the hands of over 150 third party companies according to the team, with many targeting the product’s launch. That’s a vastly different approach to past titles, where the SDK often releases alongside the game, and immediately delaying future mods.
Is Microsoft Flight Simulator coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X?
The promised Xbox One version will condense its elaborate control scheme to the traditional gamepad, although also likely to support a limited number of third-party peripherals. We expect Microsoft to ship the title on its next-generation Xbox Series X, although we’re yet to hear official word on its future console plans.
Expect additional details on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 for Xbox One over the months ahead, as its final PC release nears.
Is Microsoft Flight Simulator coming to Xbox Game Pass?
Yes, Microsoft has confirmed plans to bring Flight Simulator to Xbox Game Pass, its Netflix-style subscription service for Xbox One and Windows 10 games. The title will hit Xbox Game Pass to PC at launch, currently priced at $5 per month — with a $1 trial month for newcomers. While Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will also ship as a traditional buy-once title, its Xbox Game Pass debut requires the smallest upfront investment.
Prepare for take off
The next Microsoft Flight Simulator still appears to be targeting late 2020 availability, first shipping to Windows 10 PCs, and bundled within Xbox Game Pass too. What do you hope to see from Microsoft’s latest? Let us know down in the comments section.
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