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FS-ACOF and the payware vs freeware debate

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Microsoft has just started advertising the next FS release. Soon websites will be full of previews of FS-ACOF. However, MSFT has also dropped the price of FS to approx $55.00 and got rid of the Standard vs Professional Edition thing, which frankly I never quite understood.Yet I noticed a trend in FS where most addons are now sub $30 to $40 (you gotta love that Euro). Will it still make as much sense for you to pay that much when the actual product you buy is priced relatively lower than it's prior release? OR are we at the verge of buying FS and then spending more than the cost of the product on a single addon?I just came to this observation when I was cleaning out some old files and backup zips and noticed something strange. I only bought one addon for FS2002. The PSS Airbus, simply because Airbus is a neglected part of the FS world. In comparision for FS2000, I have DF737 / PSS747 / PSS777 / PIC767 / Flight 1 Upgrade of their 747/FS Navigator etc. The list is amazing (disturbing???). I also upgraded my PC / added a Yoke and 2 joysticks / 3 graphics cards (don't ask) and a new desk and chair to while away the hours on this "hobby". Not bad for a casual FS user who 1st bought FS98 for no other reason than it looked cool at Software ETC (before gamestop.com) and was on sale for $10.00. Now I know the economy is not what it was, but I have spent much less (by my count only $15.00) on FS2002 vs 100's I spent on FS2000. If you add the fact that FS2000 was a pig on my system specs, I find this an interesting observation.I don't know about you but nowadays I no longer have the rush to buy the latest release or addon. Come to think of it while my use of FS is not diminished I spend more time looking for addons like Project Fokker before spending money on the new this or that addon.Just an observation to all those developers out there from a very casual FS hobbyist.

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This is exactly how it is with me. I bought a lot of add-ons for 2000: FS Traffic, Abacus' Corporate and Private Pilot, PSS 747 and 777, and I even own a copy of FSDS. All these add-ons together are far more then the cost of FS2000. Nowadays, I don't buy add-ons. Sure, I'd like to own one or two, but I know that by the time I get it installed, there's a freeware one already on the way that's usually as good as, if not better then, payware. Exceptions are stuff like PSS Airbus panel and such, you usually don't get that kind of quality in freeware.So, I agree with you completely. Unless an add-on is so incrediby good or revolutionary, or priced so reasonably that it's a good deal, i'm not touching it. Do I want to spend $30 dollars on a single aircraft, however nice this or that feature, I know that by next week I'll download some freeware aircraft that's even better.

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From reading the initial post & first response, it's obvious the two posters have not invested much in the latest 3rd party add-ons for FS2002. As someone has stated here previously, you can consider some of these payware programs as a sim within a sim. It's very true, & I seldom find ANY freeware that has all the options included with some select payware. For instance------ numerous 2D/VC panel & interior view options as included with Dreamfleet products.Fact is, payware programs DO have the edge when it comes to flight dynamics (example - SF260) , VC visuals ( example -Dreamfleet), State of the art panels (Flight1 Piper Meridian) and so on.Considering the time involved to produce these highly inventive add-ons, you can't compare pricing to the original sim, because it comes down to a matter of ......... "units sold".L.Adamson ----- another casual FS hobbyist, not "hardcore" by any means

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This issue is partly one of economies of scale. The sales potential of any one MSFS release is perhaps in excess of one million units, perhaps a lot more. The sales potential of even the most popular addon rarely exceeds a few thousand and the average is more like a couple of thousand units, or less.So the profit potential for MS is between 500 and 1000 times that of an addon. But the base simulator does not cost 1000x more to produce.A typical addon product may have a team of between two and five, sometimes working either full time for up to a year, or perhaps part time but with a high level of commitment. In addition to their labour, that team will spend considerable amounts promoting their product, setting up a website, administering sales (a very time consuming task), administering support (even more time consuming) and doing much research to get their product up to standard.Whilst it may appear that the average addon is expensive, in fact for the effort put in it is quite cheap when compared to non simulator products that have a similar amount of development work.A very strong factor which dictates the addon price is that the vast majority of MSFS purchasers almost never download any addon, freeware or payware, and do not subscribe to sim forums, thus the addon market will always be strictly limited to the small minority of sim users who have a high level of interest and commitment to expanding their simulator experience.If that were not the case, and developers could be sure that their product would attract twice or three times the number of purchasers, then addon prices could drop considerably in order to maximise the market potential without dimishing the developers income.It is true that the growing number of quality addons could keep the market healthy and depress prices, but if prices fell below a point where it is no longer viable for developers to expend the required energy and time, the supply might well dry up.Another point to keep in mind is that before plunging into the payware world, the majority of developers have already as it were served their apprenticeship for perhaps three to five years by previously providing bucketloads of quality freeware and understandably feel it reasonable to gain some financial reward after years of work with no monetary reward at all. Furthermore, many developers continue to donate free addons in addition to their payware offerings. Overall then, if you have both purchased new addons and used previous freeware by the same author, you are generally getting a pretty good deal.MS provides us all with a remarkably good value simulator considering the scope and potential within it, including world-wide scenery, a fair hanger-full of basic aircraft, gps, atc and weather. The addon developers provide the icing on the cake for those users who want a more in-depth experience. If MS is to maintain its economies of scale then it is not a viable proposition for it to design a sim at the current price which achieves the detail provided by addon developers, and this is why MS and professional developers have established a highly successful and long running symbiotic relationship. We have all grown used to huge quantities of free software, to the point where some users (but I do not include those posting above) expect as of right free software ad infinitum. This indicates to me how spoiled some simmers, and I emphasise they are probably a minority, have become. Imagine going into a book store where for a one month period a certain book by an author is free, then the next month searching for a new book by the same author which carries a price tag, and objecting that such a book is not free.There is an illusion in some quarters that software by its very nature should be automatically free, yet software is no different from any other kind of intellectual property. It is a tangible piece of work which someone has toiled hard to produce. It is therefore worthy of purchase. The fact that many forms of software happen to be free is a bonus for the user which they should perhaps appreciate more, rather than assuming that becuase it was once free it should always be.I know only too well the accumulated expenditure we all make on addons. Perhaps the solution is to buy more discerningly, and wait for word of mouth assessments and reviews, making also sure that the product in question is well supported and is of good quality, before becoming a regretful purchaser.Kind Regards,Rob YoungRealAir Simulations

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The answer is simple, there's a place for both. The complexity of add-ons has grown with the complexity of the base sim itself. While there are a few very dedicated very high quality freeware authors out there (Yannick Lavigne for example), there are also highly dedicated payware teams that are producing remarkable products that far exceed the quality and functionality of 95% of the freeware. They typically invest enourmous amounts of time and energy in their projects and as such, deserve due compensation (if that's how they choose to offer such projects).Now, when it comes to pricing of those products, that's where each individual has to determine for themselves what they want to pay. I've set my limit based on my desires and how much I actually use a product. I feel I've got my money's worth out of just about every payware product I've purchased. However, I have seen a trend with ever escalating prices for products. That concerns me as I feel the potential exists where the products are becoming so expensive they'll end up pricing themselves out of the market. Say you set a price of $20.00 for a high quality GA add-on product (very reasonable IMO). The amount of sales generated at said price is 1000 units the first month (just an example). Now, the next product comes out and it's priced at $25.00. It has increased complexity and is very likely worth the extra $5.00. However, only 800 units in the first month are sold (because it's more expensive). The end result is equal sales, but a smaller consumer group. Now we get to $30.00 and above. Many simply won't buy ONE product at such a relatively high cost. Yea, the complexity is there, but the price/value ratio isn't for most. As such, the targeted group is smaller and smaller down to the point of diminishing returns. There will always be a dedicated group of hard-core consumers who can afford to and will pay higher asking prices. However, the average user is less interested in a product as the price goes up.Let me make this point very clear, I strongly feel payware developers deserve compensation for the high quality products they produce. But they need to understand the targeted consumer group is unlikely to pay higher prices for add-ons.On the other end of the arguement is the increasing amount of "high volume" payware developers. I've seen a few out there who will charge for anything. In most cases, the quality of "average" freeware exceeds the quality of those particular developers. As such, let the buyer beware.

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Rob, you make many fine points, and I do not not wish to argue on any of them. I don't even think that there is a legitimate "payware vs. freeware" debate...the whole notion is rediculous to me.But, I would like you to expand on the notion of pricing of addon products from a vendors point of view. It seems to me that none of the vendors ever experiment with pricing points of products. What I mean is that varying prices result in varying sales volumes (all else being equal) and that the curve relating the two is not linear. It seems to me that the pricing for addons is too high (in general) and that vendors might increase thier revenues thru increasing volumes resulting from lower prices.I have set some firm limits on myself on what I will pay for any FS addon - generally half of what I paid for FS pro (US $35). But so far I have only paid that much for 1 (upgrade) product. There are a couple of items in the $35 range that I have looked at purchasing for a long time; but I just can't seem to justify paying that much for them. Actually, I would part with $20 for just about anything, but $25 gives me pause. In fact, I would much more likely pay $20 each for 2 products from the same vendor as would pay $35 for a single item.It just appears that vendors are pricing thier product on what they _think_ it is worth instead of looking at the economic realities (or even trying find out what they are) as businesses should do to remain viable.Regards,T Edwin (hoo)

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To all those who think FS is not at all like real life. Read the last two posts and wake up. Freeware is not a right, it's a gift. Payware is not a gifthorse. It's a hard commercial reality - for both sides.Each has sound reasons for existing. But it ALWAYS comes down to money and harsh economic realities in the end.ChasW

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>It seems to me that none of the vendors ever experiment with pricing points of products. What I mean is that varying prices result in varying sales volumes (all else being equal) and that the curve relating the two is not linear. It seems to me that the pricing for addons is too high (in general) and that vendors might increase thier revenues thru increasing volumes resulting from lower prices.

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>Now, when it comes to pricing of those products, that's >where each individual has to determine for themselves what >they want to pay. I've set my limit based on my desires and >how much I actually use a product. I feel I've got my >money's worth out of just about every payware product I've >purchased. However, I have seen a trend with ever >escalating prices for products. That concerns me as I feel Escalating prices are not something that you see only in the FS market...It's called inflation and is quite normal. The software market is strange in that inflation is very low and higher prices are usually compensated for by increased functionality (rather than say a restaurant meal where you get the higher price and are lucky if they didn't also reduce the amount and/or quality of the product at the same time).Remember that even compared to just 2 years ago the quality of the average (high-end) commercial addon has increased to a point where many authors consider the products released back then to be obsolete and are offering them either at reduced prices or stopped offering them.The increase in price of new products is caused largely by the huge increase in time, effort and money needed to create them.Where a 2 man team might pump out a quality product (as considered thus by the consumer) for FS98 in 2 weeks and FS2000 in a month it now takes a 5 man team half a year to release that product for FS2002. But they can't charge 8 times the price because noone would buy it. As a result profit margins evaporate.Given that you need to support a product afterwards, a smaller number of customers can be preferable.It means there will be less people asking for support, so you need to spend less time on that support. It will likely also mean that the people you do need to support will ask less questions each because they're more knowledgeable of FS and the product (though the questions they do ask could well be harder to answer).>Let me make this point very clear, I strongly feel payware >developers deserve compensation for the high quality >products they produce. But they need to understand the >targeted consumer group is unlikely to pay higher prices for >add-ons. All depends on what the product is. If for me the product is worth the price I'll pay it whatever the price as long as that price is within the range I can afford to pay.If a product is likely to offer me 100 hours of enjoyment, and that product costs

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You make some good points there Mr. Young. I've never considered freeware to be a right, and I greatly appreciate everything all the developers do to make our hobby great; especially people like Yannick Lavigne (sp, sorry) who make outstanding aircraft just to make this hobby better.The reason I don't buy add ons for 2002 is because freeware is getting better and better every day. That PSS 747 I bought is crap compared to the free one Posky has. Sure, it doesn't have a panel, and none can compare to the one with PSS's 747 (even today), but I don't mind. There's so many great stuff out there that I just don't have a need for payware add-ons. Why spend $30 on a single Piper Meridian, however nice, when I can get hundreds of great aircraft for free? By the time I buy something and get it installed, a good freeware aircraft comes along and I want to fly that instead. Sure, freeware quality might be less then payware in some cases, but that's to be expected. You either give customers value for money or be prepared to go belly-up. Overall, I'm certainly not disappointed with freeware as a whole lately. In fact, in my opinion freeware authors often provide better support then payware authors. Plus you can more freely tinker with it and share it with others. (within limits)

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Thanks for the response. I am certain that there is both a high and low threshold on price, and that with esoteric products/services price to revenue curve isn't necessarily logical. My first software development job was with a company whos product was aimed at the insurance industry (mostly). The fact of the matter is that the insurance companies wouldn't even consider the product if it didn't cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars _and_ have a support contract matching or exceeding the price of the license. It is a shame about Fly!2. I think that TR really dropped the ball with thier antics. But in my view $15-20 is about right for a quality addon, and I'm not averse to spending $25-30 on outstanding work (which from what I've heard are what RealAir produces, just not the 'type' of aircraft I'm interested in yet). But at much higher than $30, the product must be REALLY good and be viable for years/FS versions to come.Part of my cynicism about paying too much comes from the response from a vendor about why they weren't supporting FS2k2 with a particular (FS2k) addon. They said that they had never promised to support any other version. Well I understand that, but I promise that I will never knowingly buy another product from that company as a result.I understand that e-commerce costs are involved (I wasn't aware that they were that heavy). I don't see a real need to "box" an addon at all. Granted, I don't live in a huge metropolitan area, but I have only once seen an FS addon on a store shelf, and that was in a bargain bin at an office supply store, of all places. Electronic distribution should be the norm, and while cd media should be available it should not cost $10 extra to get one. Beyond that, I think that try-before-you-buy should be the norm also, and volume discounts where appropriate (simFlyers Airports for example).Well I'm thru venting. Thanx again for the insight(s).I wish RealAir continued success (and if you guys make a plane I'm in which I'm interested, you can probably count on my $20-25 ;)Regards,-T Edwin (hoo)

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One of my points was that many payware authors are still producing freeware too. If you look in the documents of Yannick Lavigne's aircraft you will see that I am the co-author of the last two addons that Yannick released!Regards,Rob Young

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