Gibbage

FSW from a 3rd party perspective.

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First, full disclosure.  Im a small (2 man crew) 3rd party dev, and yes I am making something for FSW to "test the waters".  With that out of the way, let’s move on.

FSW is a double edge sword for 3rd party dev's.  On one hand, it’s a new possible frontier with limitless possibilities, and on the other hand, it’s an unknown risk.  In a way, FSW hinges on 3rd party support, and 3rd party support hinges on FSW having active customers.  It’s a "chicken or the egg" situation, and I said so to Simon (3rd party manager) in a meeting.  It’s an almost impossible situation, and I truly wish Dovetail success.  Their success is MY success!  

FSX/P3D has set the bar REALLY high in that its a product that has had centuries of continuous development on it.  Lots of customers have purchased tons of products to enhance their sim, and that’s a bad thing for FSW.  Many customers are HAPPY with FSX/P3D, and moving to a new sim means having to re-buy many things if that’s even possible.  I foresee a lot of "hard core" simmers sticking with FSX/P3D for the long haul.  I still see many simmers flying FS2004 due to 3rd party add-on's they have, or an older computer that can’t handle the upgrade.  So I personally doubt we will get many converts from FSX/P3D, at least not right off the bat.  It may take time for them to be persuaded over, but that will take some major events from 3rd party's.  Like something big from PMDG (who have not to my knowledge stated if they will be working in FSW).  

So let’s start off with the possible "GOOD" aspect of FSW for 3rd party dev’s.

If the customer is not "hard core" simmers, then who are they?  Im looking at new pilots/users who will be the primary target of FSW.  No im not saying "casual" as that’s a dirty word (I was on the Flight team)!  Flight Simming needs new blood, but has not had a "new" sim in a long time.  I think the market is prime for a new entry, with a lot of people who are looking to jump into simming!  FSX is aging and at its limits, and P3D is a non-commercial product.  The only option is X-Plane and DCS.  Dovetail "primed the pumps" a bit with Flight School, and those users will get free copies of FSW.  These users are new and DONT have a massive collection of 3rd party add-on's, and thats good news for 3rd party dev's.  So, the user base, if it’s there, will be starving for content.  

Also, FSW is a "fresh start" in that the market is not yet saturated.  That means many popular aircraft are ripe for the picking!  This is also exciting news for us dev's.  One of the single most difficult tasks of ANY 3rd party project for FSX/P3D is simply finding an aircraft that is popular enough to sell, but not already done or being done.  It’s a very crowded market!  Being in an uncrowded market full of starving customers is VERY good.  

Marketing is also difficult for 3rd party dev's.  I sell products on multiple stores like Aerosoft, Steam and even my own web page.  Also, the customers are fractured over multiple forums, web pages, and other stores.  I don’t even bother with marketing after the initial launch just because its so fragmented that its almost impossible.  I send out a few review copies, enjoy the storm for a bit, then let things take its course after a few patches.  Steam has the potential to put my product in front of millions of potential customers!  I may do some Google ad’s, but when the destination is Steam, its more effective than giving some random web page your credit card.

Copy protection.  As a dev, I know everyone hates copy protection!  Im sorry, but it’s a necessary evil we must do.  I have seen sales drop like a rock the moment a product is shared for free on a web page.  It kills sales and makes the next project a lot less likely. I try very hard to keep any copy protections from being invasive, and the few at our disposal in FSX/P3D can be subverted by anyone with some skill.  The Steam store comes with very good copy protections for us dev's.  

Steam itself is also a very trusted client with millions of users and a great reputation.  Something that will be important to a potential new client base who would be leery of giving me their credit card.  

So thats the benefits.  What are the negatives?  

Being "locked in" into FSW.  I can’t comment about my deals with Dovetail or anyone else, but Dovetail has stated on this forum that there will be no external 3rd party stores.  So no "competition" and a monopoly.  To some, that may be a good thing, but competition is the core to a free economy.  It drives down prices for the consumer, and increases the quality.  If there was external stores I could sell my products for FSW, I could maybe demand a better contract as a 3rd party developer.  

No "Grey market" for 3rd party dev's.  If I sell my product in FSW, I need to have a license from the aircraft manufacturer or whoever holds the rights.  This can be VERY VERY difficult for small developers like me.  Without an external market, there is no grey market.  No grey market means less add-on's.  Also, if I need to pay Grumman/Boeing/Lockheed Martin, they want BIG money and that may price many things out for small dev's.  Many years ago, Grumman wanted $170,000 to use the likeness of one of its aircraft.   Thats never going to happen since I may get 10% of that if im lucky in FSX/P3D.  Maybe if FSW has enough users, but right now, no.

Steam overhead.  If I sell my own products, I can keep a lot more money from every sale.  The more hands I need to pay, the less money I can keep.  Steam has a LOT of hands and takes a good chunk of your profits, along with Dovetail.  Again, hopefully this is offset by higher sales volume.  Henry Ford said, "I would rather have 10% of 100 men's work more than 100% of my own".  I would rather make 1$ off of a thousand sales then 10$ off of a hundred.  Why if it’s the same amount of money?  Each customer is potential marketing.  1000 happy customers will tell more friends than 100 happy customers ;)  Marketing 101.

Anyways, this is just the personal ramblings of a small 3rd party dev.  Im personally hopeful for FSW as the community NEEDS an infusion of fresh pilots, and FSW looks like it has a lot more headroom for 3rd party developers.  My biggest concern is the lack of a grey market limiting what we can do as 3rd party developers.  This post is in no way meant to besmirch Dovetail or the people who work there.    

Thanks for reading my ramblings, and keep the blue side up!

Kevin "Gibbage" Miller

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Thanks for your insights Gibbage!  It's nice to hear from a small dev perspective.  I am a long time MS FS simmer and less that a year ago I finally made a move over to FSX-SE.  I am glad I did.  I really have no opinion concerning Steam, but I do understand the pros and cons of DLC provider.  I did not jump on the Flight School bandwagon.  I am however going to get FSW EA just because it is 64bit and other improvements and features are being implemented.  For $25 I believe it is worth the risk.  For my simming style, I am completely satisfied with FSX-SE, but I do wish it had better night lighting, sloped runways and real (time) world weather, but none of these cause me sleepless nights.  The main reason I want to take the risk with FSW is because I know there will be 3rd party devs like you creating content, and I hope there are many more small devs that are willing and able to get on-board.  I want to support the 3rd party devs because that's where the creative content really happens.  Again, thanks for your post and insights!

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Kevin,

Thank you for this input.  I can well imagine though, that most simmers are pretty well aware of the Steam/DTG-FSW/3rd party devs relationship. The theory, at least, is fairly well defined and more to the point, in the public domain.

What I would like to say, without stepping on any toes, is that, I believe it is extremely, repeat, extremely important, that DTG widely disseminate their retail policy.  ie emphatically state whether or not any dev must, or may not, be required  to retail through steam/DTG before being allowed to sell their product through other methods. If this is going to be a contractual requirement for devs, then I see this as shooting themselves in the foot and FSW, could very well follow in the footsteps of MS Flight.  FSW needs independent third party Devs in order to succeed I believe, regardless of how good or bad the platform is.

The other essential, for me, and I would guess others, is that the Devs themselves give a very clear and early indication of whether or not, they are going to support this platform.  This is necessary in my opinion because if, for example, a company like TDFI or PMDG are NOT going to develop for FSW because of these retailing constraints, it will be a deal breaker for many simmers. I for one, will not buy this Sim, IF, three unnamed Developers shy away from the new platform.

So, to clarify, I firmly believe that, we, as consumers, know prior to purchase, the very early, clear and definite policy of FSW AND very early, clear and definite decisions on the support issue by individual developers. 

This is not a price dependent aspect of purchase.  It is very clearly a request that we, as consumers, are able to make an informed and factual decision before spending our hard earned dollars.

Lastly, I sincerely hope that this post is regarded as impartial...it really is not my intention to stop anyone from buying this new simulator. I just want people who do opt for FSW (complete with any required and probably expensive, addons) to simply be aware that a LOT of developers may not be supporting the retail policy an therefore the Sim itself.

Regards to all

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I totally see all your points!

Do you really mean 'FSX [had] centuries of continuous development on it'? I did not know that!

If I were you, I would be very cautious in putting a lot of resources into FSW. I said it before: FSX, FS9, all successful sims had a very open structure and would not be alive and kicking for the high amount of free- and payware.

Let's be honest. FSW is at least at this point - 7 GA aircraft and cool rain effects, not much more that I can see and I might be wrong.  They have to do a lot, and I mean a big huge bunch more to get serious flight simmers interested. Add to it that the scenery limitation based on FSX with all its issues (blurry textures, autogen popping etc etc) I have my doubts if they ever get to a point of being a 'major player' using an old architecture.

I have been simming for about 30 years now and to break away from my current sim I need something much better than that, because in a sense I would have to start all over, which at one point I have to do, but I need a VERY good reason. 

DTG is trying to bring the gamer mentality to the sim mentality (steam) and I have my doubts that this will go in their favor.

If I were you, I would wait and see if FSW goes anywhere. And maybe I am wrong and FSW is the next best thing since sliced bread.

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According to DTG you can sell anywhere you wish as long you sell also at Steam.

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5 minutes ago, angeli662 said:

According to DTG you can sell anywhere you wish as long you sell also at Steam.

I am not absolutely sure, but I thought I read somewhere, (possibly in the PMDG comments), that if you sell elsewhere, it can't be lower than the Steam price?

TT

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3 minutes ago, Treetops45 said:

I am not absolutely sure, but I thought I read somewhere, (possibly in the PMDG comments), that if you sell elsewhere, it can't be lower than the Steam price?

TT

 

Don't worry PMDG will never be lower:cool:

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13 minutes ago, Silicus said:

 

Do you really mean 'FSX [had] centuries of continuous development on it'? I did not know that!

FSX is the 10th iteration of the first flight sim made in 1982.  Since then, each new version was an addition to the old version.  Adding things like airports, aircraft, textures and so on.  So FSX is the culmination of 25 years of development.  Thats a very high bar that is difficult to reach, let alone surpass.  I was on the ACES team as a contractor when it closed and the staff there had hundreds of years combined in aviation.  To think anyone could come along with a new engine and just make something better is not fully understanding the depths of a real flight sim.  

That said, FSX had a lot of OLD code in order to support old features and add-on's.  That old code held the engine back.  Whenever I describe the difficulties of working within the FSX engine, I describe it as a "house of cards".  Pull anything, and the entire thing can come collapsing down.  What Dovetail has set out to do entails just that.  Going to 64B means removing a lot of that old code add-on's relied on, but also held the engine back.  I am personally looking forward to seeing what the extra headroom can offer us as 3rd party dev's.  

Kevin

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Most young simmers today were born in 1982, it probably feels to them FSX/P3D is so last century :biggrin:

 

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24 minutes ago, Treetops45 said:

I am not absolutely sure, but I thought I read somewhere, (possibly in the PMDG comments), that if you sell elsewhere, it can't be lower than the Steam price?

TT

I would think there will be a non-compete clause keeping prices the same between Steam and 3rd party stores, but I'm not privy to the agreements.

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Kevin,

Thanks again.  You have partly reinforced my last comments.

FSX, FSX-SE and P3D are exactly what they are today BECAUSE of add on Developers.  The platform itself is ancient compared to FSW. 

BUT ... I believe that forcing everyone to retail through Steam and DTG, thereby reducing margins and R and D revenue, will restrict FSW in a way which is detrimental to all Flight simmers. I genuinely hope this is not so but I see major problems ahead for FSW in an era when we desperately need, at least, a new sim, new devs and more competition.

Long live Flight simming

 

Regards

 

Tony

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I agree that not having a 3rd party market can limit add-on's, but not from reduced margins.  Again, bulk sales CAN make up for the lower profit per sales.  My concern is the grey market and smaller 1 or 2 man dev's like myself that cant secure a license with a big aircraft company.  THAT will limit developers.  If you want to sell through Dovetail/Steam, you must have a license.  Thats a huge pain point for all of us developers.  

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Nicely presented, there, Kevin, as a developer I've been thinking this over, so it's great to see the most important points discussed here. Just from reading this, and the replies so far, has brought up a few points for me, though.

First, in reply to Tony, regarding developers committing to FSW -- yes, this needs to happen, but I can't really see too many developers leaping straight into this, at least until the market becomes a bit clearer -- many will be waiting on a v1 release, which may be a long time away. In the meantime, we need a bit of dabbling, similar to the old freeware days before FSX. Everyone -- users and developers -- need to feel confident that a) there's a good, solid interest (and future) in addons, and b) there are not too many hoops to jump through.

It seems that many people assume that a developing for a particular sim is either/or -- I develop for both FSX and Prepar3d, and the reality is that with the scenery I produce, 90% of the work is shared between them, so for 10% more work, I'm reaching a bigger market. Since FSW is built on the same base, it would be interesting to know how much of my work can be shared -- if it's 60%, for instance, and I can increase sales by 50% or more (taking into account reduced margins on Steam) for 40% more work, then I'm ahead.

Which brings me to the last point -- selling via Steam doesn't necessarily mean less return -- I wonder how confident developers are that they can retain their customer base, and grow it outside Steam. If you've been offering great service since day-one, then you may be surprised how many of your customers are happy to continue supporting you directly, even if Steam is ultimately simpler to use, and prices are the same. I don't think that trying to fudge pricing is a viable option, but there can't be anything wrong with encouraging your customers to stick with your current system. So you might retain your current margins, plus gain a few -- or lots more -- extra customers via Steam. Win-win.

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7 minutes ago, Gibbage said:

My concern is the grey market and smaller 1 or 2 man dev's like myself that cant secure a license with a big aircraft company.  THAT will limit developers.  If you want to sell through Dovetail/Steam, you must have a license.  Thats a huge pain point for all of us developers.

Yes, my current favourite sim got that way from a) still being developed, and b) wide-open to third-party development. Reducing or removing either of these would basically kill a sim for me.

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1 hour ago, Silicus said:

If I were you, I would be very cautious in putting a lot of resources into FSW. I said it before: FSX, FS9, all successful sims had a very open structure and would not be alive and kicking for the high amount of free- and payware.

Indeed, they are not alive and kicking. They're dead. They died long ago. The fact that people like me and many others are still using FSX-SE, FSX Acceleration or even FS 2004 today doesn't change a thing. Microsoft jumped off this market long ago. Meaning, no more development, no more updates, no more support, no more nothing. Simply, the end. This is why we had for many years this mythological "open structure" many people here keep on talking about.

Unfortunately, I see being spread and repeated in this thread the same misconceptions I've already noticed in several others. What many people refuse to understand is that the so called "Microsoft FSX business model" never actually existed. It simply resulted from a long list of concurrent and mostly coincidental factors, the most important being that at some point Microsoft decided to discontinue FSX and eventually even Flight and abandoned the flight simulation market completely. The product remained on sale, but with no further developments. This created a very abnormal, if not unique situation. A lot of third parties had the opportunity to develop a great number of high-level addons running on a very popular, yet virtually dead platform. If Microsoft were still in this market, I can guarantee you they would charge either developers or users (or possibly both) in some way. Nobody invests money, time and resources for development, support and continuous upgrade of a flight sim platform without a profitable business model. Either you offer your product for a very low price, but then you charge developers for their sales, as Steam is trying to do with FSW and all their gaming titles, or you simply charge the end users entirely, as P3D, PMDG and others are doing with their very expensive licensing model. What many people here seem to expect is that DTG will sell FSW for the same entry level price as the old FSX (about $ 25), yet keep on investing in optimization, upgrades, support etc. in the long-term. This is simply not going to happen and if Microsoft decided to exit this market at some point, we must conclude that this happened for a reason. No amount of repeating that this business model "worked" and created an "open structure" will change the fact that such scenario was an exception and not the rule. And as such is not going to repeat itself again in the future.

There are many possible business models out there, each one with pros and cons, depending on who is looking at what and I will obviously not discuss them here. What we can't expect, though, is that DTG will enter this market with a long-term commitment of development and support without charging either developers or users or both in some way. I understand the concerns raised by PMDG, Milviz and possibly other developers. But if you really don't like the Steam concept because you are afraid that this will keep third party developers away, then ask DTG to change their policy and be prepared to pay for their license the same as you already pay to Lockheed Martin for each new version of P3D, which is not a cheap price, as we know. Or ask DTG to offer their license for a monthly or annual subscription in order to have access to all their updates and patches. Whatever you choose, this is business, which means that someone has to bear the costs. We can't have the cake and eat it.

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