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Microsoft Flight Simulator is a series of flight simulator programs for MS-DOS, Classic Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems. It was an early product in the Microsoft application portfolio and differed significantly from Microsoft's other software, which was largely business-oriented. As of November 2022, Microsoft Flight Simulator is the longest-running software product line for Microsoft, predating Windows by three years.[2] Microsoft Flight Simulator is one of the longest-running PC video game series of all time.[3][4]


Microsoft Flight Simulator began as a set of articles written by Bruce Artwick in 1976 about a 3D computer graphics program. When the magazine editor said that subscribers wanted to buy the program, Artwick set to work to create it and incorporated a company called Sublogic Corporation in 1977. The company began selling flight simulators for several computer platforms, including the 8080, Altair 8800, and IMSAI 8080. In 1979 Sublogic released FS1 Flight Simulator for the Apple II. In 1980, Sublogic released a version for the TRS-80, and in 1982 they licensed an IBM PC version with CGA graphics to Microsoft, which was released as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 on a self-booting disk. In the early days of less-than-100% IBM PC compatible systems, Flight Simulator and Lotus 1-2-3 were used as unofficial compatibility test software for new PC clone models.[8]


The flying area encompasses planet Earth with varying degrees of detail and includes over 24,000 airports. There is an ever-growing list of scenery representing major landmarks and popular cities. Landscape details become sparse as gameplay moves away from population centers within the flight simulator, particularly outside the United States, although a variety of websites offer scenery add-ons to remedy this.


Microsoft released a new flight simulator titled Microsoft Flight in February 2012. Developed by The Coalition (as Microsoft Game Studios Vancouver), it was not part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, but instead was designed to replace it and aimed at drawing new users into flight gaming. While claiming to be simpler to use for inexperienced users, it is incompatible with Flight Simulator and does not allow the use of existing Flight Simulator add-ons (including aircraft, objects, and photographic scenery).


The game is Microsoft's first simulator since Microsoft Flight in 2012.[32] In addition to the PC release it was also released for the Xbox Series X and Series S, making it the first entry in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series to be released for a gaming console. The Windows PC version of the simulator was released on August 18, 2020.[33] Microsoft Flight Simulator launched for Xbox Series X and Series S on July 27, 2021.


Individual attributes of Flight Simulator aircraft that can be customized include; cockpit layout, cockpit image, aircraft model, aircraft model textures, aircraft flight characteristics, scenery models, scenery layouts, and scenery textures, often with simple-to-use programs, or only a text editor such as 'Notepad'. Dedicated 'flight simmers have taken advantage of Flight Simulator's vast add-on capabilities, having successfully linked Flight Simulator to homebuilt hardware, some of which approaches the complexity of commercial full-motion flight simulators.


A number of websites are dedicated to providing users with add-on files (such as airplanes from actual airlines, airport utility cars, actual buildings located in specific cities, textures, and city files). The wide availability over the internet of freeware add-on files for the simulation package has encouraged the development of a large and diverse virtual community, linked up by design group and enthusiast message boards, online multiplayer flying, and 'virtual airlines'. The internet has also facilitated the distribution of 'payware' add-ons for the simulator, with the option of downloading the files, which reduces distribution costs.


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