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Thoughts and observations about our hobby

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First of all I'd like to apologise for the length of this post. It's a collection of my thoughts, opinions and observations with regards to our hobby.I've lurked both here and on other forums for some time now. I played my first flight sim in 1989 at the age of 8. My first encounter with MSFS was FS98. FS2000 was the first version that I spent a significant amount of time with and by the time FS2002 came around I was "bitten by the bug". I have a large collection of addons, both commercial and freeware, and I have spent more money than I care to think about on addons over the last 4-5 years.Probably the biggest thing I have noticed about our hobby over the years is the increasing commercialisation. No one can deny the fact there are more commercial and payware addons out there than ever before. This brings a number of issues that I think the community needs to address.Commercial Addon PricesOne of the current hot topics. My first commercial addon was the original PSS 777. If I recall correctly I payed around

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>Why don't they tell us how many sales they make with each addon?>The cynic in me says it's because they don't want us to know>how much money they really make from this hobby. I would>encourage developers to publish their sales figures. This at>least would give us some sort of idea as to whether we are>paying over the odds for our addons.I really don't like this notion that how much money a company makes should decide whether their prices are too high or not. Shouldn't you decide for yourself if the product is worth the asking price based on how good it is?Does a given addon suddenly become not worth what you paid for it if you know the company behind it may have made a lot of money? What is wrong with a company that makes a great product making a lot of money? How much a company makes should be based on the quality and mass appeal of their products, not on some arbitrarily decided amount they're "allowed" to make before someone forces them to lower their prices. Professional FS addons are not some sort of a necessity, they're a luxury purchase. I also really think high end addons like PMDG, LDS, Dreamfleet and so on are way beyond the "hobby" realm. There are real pilots using this stuff for systems familiarization and whatnot now. Producing sim addons is a full time job for a lot of these companies and they're businesses just like any other. If you think what they produce is worth the asking price, then buy it, if not then don't. What they choose to charge is their right - your right is to not purchase it if you don't think it's worth the cost.

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>I also really think high end addons like PMDG, LDS, Dreamfleet>and so on are way beyond the "hobby" realm. There are real>pilots using this stuff for systems familiarization and>whatnot now. Producing sim addons is a full time job for a>lot of these companies and they're businesses just like any>other. If you think what they produce is worth the asking>price, then buy it, if not then don't. What they choose to>charge is their right - your right is to not purchase it if>you don't think it's worth the cost.That about say's it all!L.Adamson

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Perhaps I should have asked how much *profit* a developer makes. That, I think is very relevant to the prices we pay.Only yesterday I read a thread here on the subject of addon prices. One member said that the cost of research and development is very high and that is the main factor driving prices up. So how much does it cost to develop an addon?There has been some controversy here in the UK about car manufacturer's conspiring to fix the price of cars artificially high. Likewise we've recently seen moves by Sony to increase their wholesale prices to online retailers, thus forcing them to raise their prices in line with high street retailers.I'm not accusing addon developers of conspiring to keep their prices artificially high, I would genuinely like to know how much it costs to make an addon, and how much profit they make from their business. I don't want developers to go unrewarded for their efforts, and if it really does cost a lot of money to provide these products then I am prepared to pay for them. However, if the prices of addons are artificially high then I want to know about it.Whatever anyone says, this is just a hobby. Yes some people do use MSFS for training applications, but I think they're the exception rather than the rule.Also, I've seen it said on several occasions that we should cut developers some slack because they have "other obligations" and "9-5 jobs". I've also heard other people such as yourself say developers are running a business just like any other. I think we can agree that the FS addon industry has moved way beyond just being a cottage industry. We now have to decide, are developers businessmen, or are they enthusiasts? How should this dictate how we deal with them?

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Though I appreciate the thread and the discussion that I am sure it will generate, there are two presumptions in this topic that I have to address; and I am sure they will be controversial. The first is the presumption that any business owes its customers insight into its business, practices, margins, profitability, etc. Unless the company is "public", that is its stock is traded publicly, my apologies, but they don't "owe" you an explanation, insight or reveiw of their profits, overall income, expenses, R&D outlay, etc. etc. It frankly is none of your business, and to demand or expect that a company or individual would reveal these details of their "business" is naive at best. To expect them to reveal this information so that YOU can determine whether their price is acceptable is also naive and contrary to every modern business practice today (outside of government contractingm that is).The second presumption is that of pricing. It is very simple. MARKET FORCES. The market (you) drives price (or another way to look at it, the market "allows" price). If you are willing to pay, then companies will charge. If the price is set too high, sales fall off, and companies re-assess their price point. If enough units are sold at a given price and the company is satisfied with the quantity sold, then they will hold price no matter how greatly you nash your teeth.

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HELLO!, I enjoyed your post. A refreshing point of view. And while I'll may disagree with some of what you say,as amplified here by others, I won't comment,and I will just monitor and learn As I often I have read here, there are some very bright people in this Sim world,as exampled by you. Yes your dedication is appreciated. We all need to get up to altitude and view the landscape, at times, often it becomes clearer. AND HAPPY FLYING TO YOU! AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS! VIN

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> We now have to>decide, are developers businessmen, or are they enthusiasts?>How should this dictate how we deal with them?I've known for years, that some of the best in the business/hobby are both. What's to decide?L.Adamson

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I really think developers, and I know a lot of companies already do this, should allow the user to download an evaluation copy, which has some functionality taken out. Let him/her test drive it. If it meet's the users needs, then the user can pay for it and the developer will send an unlock code.

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I don't disagree with what you said. However; it is astonishing that you skipped over what is happening in freeware. Although; perhaps unlike the rest of the industry; freeware flight sim products lag behind payware there is some absoluteley phenomenol freeware. I do not fault devs for wanting money for some of their work. I deliberately phrased it that way- Rob Young for one example has done just as much if not more for freeware! I am not demanding all devs "give it to the community free" but the fact is some do. Have you tried the CHristen Eagle or the Turbocommander 690B? I find it hard to believe you could say so much about so many aspects of our hobby and not touch on freeware. Have you heard of FLY legacy? There is now a freeware shell able to import planes made for FLY II. How long before FS9 also? Freeware is the true wave of the future. Freeware is why comercial products *have* to be good.FLYing? It's cool. Trillions of birds and insects can't be wrong.

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>I find it hard to believe you could say so much about so many>aspects of our hobby and not touch on freeware.I think you'll find I did mention freeware, or at least my perception of what is happening with freeware, i.e. great freeware authors being driven away by the attitude of some people within our community.Back to the subject of prices...I never said I think developers have an obligation to tell us how much money they are making. I just think it would certainly be very interesting to know.If it emerged that developers were making very large profits on their sales of addons then I think many of us would not be prepared to pay the increasing prices.Very few people within the community know how much money is being made with commercial addons, and those who do know, for whatever reason are not willing to tell. If I were a cynical person I would suspect it's because of the above reason.Imagine this - if you found out tomorrow that a typical car cost only a few thousand dollars/pounds/euros to design and manufacture, but the market price was tens of thousands, would you be prepared to pay such high prices?An observation I have made is this: The typical price for a "high end" addon aircraft might be 30 dollars/euros/whatever. One company will set their latest release at 35-40 dollars. Within a few months most of the other companies will have set their prices at 35-40 dollars as well. This year has seen 50 hit as the fairly typical price for the more complex or high end aircraft. Where will 2006 end up... 60? 70? How long will it be before we are paying 100 dollars for new addon aircraft?Once again I'll say I'm not accusing anyone in the industry of conspiring to rip us off, but I really would like to know what is driving the increasing prices of addons.

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>However, several issues must be addressed by us, the grass>roots of the community:>>i) Are we prepared to carry on paying ever increasing prices>for our addons? Is the payware bubble going to burst? Are>developers using our hobby as a cash cow? How far are we>prepared to let the commercialisation of Flight Simulation as>a hobby go?>>ii) How can we be sure we will get product support after we>have given our credit card details? How will we deal with>companies who fail to deliver adequate support for their>products?>>iii) Given the astonishing growth we've seen in the number of>commercial addon developers and the market for their products,>is piracy really a problem? If so how can developers guard>against software pirates without alienating their paying>customers?>>iv) How can we ensure the continued survival of the freeware>developer? How do we keep the likes of Milton Shupe, Dave>Maltby or Rick Piper continuing to produce fantastic addons>for free when they face increasing levels of hostility and bad>behaviour within our community?>>v) Are we now ready to make a break with the past and welcome>an "all new" version of FS?>>>Thanks for taking the time to read this. As I said earlier,>these are just the thoughts and observations of a dedicated FS>enthusiast. I hope this has got some of you thinking about>these issues, or perhaps about other FS related issues you>might be concerned with.Interesting post!Anyway some general comments and some more specific responses below:One thing that we tend to do is lump "payware developers" into one big group. This encourages the "us" vs "them" mentality which can be detrimental. There is a wide range of developers out there who provide very different addons, at very different prices, with varying levels of support. i) "Are we prepared to carry on paying ever increasing pricesfor our addons?" The flightsim market is a free market. It follows the rules of supply and demand. As prices rise, people buy less. To me, there is nothing wrong with the market for flightsim addons. We have lots of open competition, no monopolies, etc. There is no reason to assume that prices will keep climbing until we "stand up and do something". While many of us might think that addons are a necessity, they are not. It isn't like gas for cars where we have to pay regardless of the price. Again, different vendors are very different from one another. As you said, we have no idea how much profit is being made. I still think that at least for some vendors, profits are not the only motive. I think if companies were only driven by profit alone, there are better ways to make money. At least for some vendors, they are partially motivated to create addons because they enjoy the hobby themselves. Now, I'm not arguing that profit doesn't drive part of it. ii) The answer to this question is simple, research. I wish we could simply assume that good support is something that we are buying, but this isn't the case. It is up to the buyer to research payware vendors *before* buying. The information is right out there, a simple forum search here will tell you what you need to know. iii) Honestly I have no idea how big of a problem piracy is. These are numbers that we just don't have. Software pirates think that they are committing a victim-less crime, but of course in the real world the people that suffer are the legitimate customers. iv) I don't think the type of people in the community have changed all that much, but the numbers have increased overall. We always had our "more colorful" members. As the community numbers increase, so do the numbers of these members. The problem is that either you have a free discussion (within the reasonable forum rules) or you don't. You can't have a free exchange of ideas without some sort of conflict. Still, sometimes these things get dragged out. This happens when two or more parties can't agree to disagree. I've been in a lot of discussions where I don't agree with someone. I make my point, and leave it be. They either agree or they don't. Of course, so many misunderstandings are started unintentionally. Language and tone play a big part of it. If I say, "I can't believe you made this post!", what am I thinking? Am I thinking you are wrong for doing it? Or maybe I've been thinking the same thing and am glad you brought it up. Of course this is a simple example, but look at discussions and see how the problems get started. Another more relevant example is regarding a memory leak. Now, this term gets thrown around quite a bit on software sites, and it means different things to different people. As a programmer myself, accusing a piece of software as having a memory leak is a *very* serious accusation. Of course, a lot of non-programmers have no idea that this kind of thing is not to be mentioned lightly. Most likely they aren't even fully aware of what a memory leak is.

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>I never said I think developers have an obligation to tell us>how much money they are making. I just think it would>certainly be very interesting to know.>You were demanding it, you just voice it politely...>If it emerged that developers were making very large profits>on their sales of addons then I think many of us would not be>prepared to pay the increasing prices.>Oh? You pay those prices for medication, many kinds of food, clothes, etc. etc.And define "very large profits". Is 1% very large, 5% maybe? Or 10%? 30%?Or is $1 "very large profit" irrespective of the price?>Very few people within the community know how much money is>being made with commercial addons, and those who do know, for>whatever reason are not willing to tell. If I were a cynical>person I would suspect it's because of the above reason.>Which apparently you are, or rather a conspiracy theorist.More correct reason is that it's none of you f***ing business.>Imagine this - if you found out tomorrow that a typical car>cost only a few thousand dollars/pounds/euros to design and>manufacture, but the market price was tens of thousands, would>you be prepared to pay such high prices?>Yes I would. Because I'd know that the person publishing those numbers is telling a sweet little lie and not taking labour cost into account.He likely has an anti-corporate agenda much like yours.>Once again I'll say I'm not accusing anyone in the industry of>conspiring to rip us off, but I really would like to know what>is driving the increasing prices of addons.You are accusing indeed not anyone in particular, but the entire industry as a whole of having some large conspiracy against you.Prices are determined by estimated market size and estimated cost of development.Add a small margin, taxes, cost of distribution and support, and you have the price you need to charge.As the market decreases in size for the highend products (because they get ever more complex and ever fewer people want such complexity despite screaming for it) at the same time development cost skyrockets prices will continue to go up.With increased complexity comes higher support cost (because of the increased number of people who refuse to read manuals and swamp tech support with questions asked in those manuals), again raising the price that has to be charged to break even.So in the end it's the consumer who drives up prices by demanding ever more from the products he expects to see for sale.

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If FS10 is an XBOX360 release, I will switch to X-Plane. I want a flight simulator, not a video game. I would welcome a new engine for FS10, but I want it to run on my computer, not on a cut-down piece of throw-away consumer entertainment garbage. If FS10 is going to be designed for any new platform it should be AMD64/EM64T.

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