During an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Asobo Studio's Jorg Neumann told VG247 that the playerbase for the 2020 game has doubled twice in 2022. At least one of those surges can be attributed to the title's cloud release.
Following Microsoft Flight Sim 2020's original PC release, its move to Xbox Series X|S in late 2021 doubled the playerbase. And when it came to cloud this past March, it meant that anyone with an Xbox One, mobile phone, and older PC were now free to fly to their heart's content, in turn doubling that playerbase a second time.
Neumann, who serves as the head of Microsoft's oldest game franchise, said that the cloud allowed the game to reach audiences in a larger way than its previous two releases. To him, it offered a great value to casual players through ease of access and not having to worry as much about technical specs.
That growth shows what cloud-based tech has to offer in the games space. It reduces the barrier to entry and simultaneously allows for technically impressive games like Microsoft Flight Simulator to be available to those who don't have access to expensive platforms.
"Xboxes are where they are, PCs are everywhere, and then cloud can give you everywhere," he said. "And I think that journey has just started.”
When Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 released, it was during the relatively early days of the pandemic and it became a way for many stuck at home to live out their travel fantasies. That allure of flying around the world in high fidelity, and "world updates" that changes a particular country with more recent data, are what Neumann is counting on to draw players in.
"Flight simming wasn't at all the thing [in Japan]," he explained to VG247. "They had Ace Combat, which is totally different. And now in Japan there's, depending on the day, 50 to 100,000 people [playing flight sims]. In Japan! Still today – this is two years ago that we did this update, and they are now simmers.”
"A country is just a concept, but is also the history of a people, which can help us to understand how we can make them feel connected with what we're doing," continued Neumann. "So far I would say the places we've gone to – there's an explosion. An explosion of people that play."
Microsoft wants you to jump into the cloud
Aside from Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, Xbox has gone to great lengths to assert the value of cloud gaming.
During September and October, Microsoft announced its efforts to expand its Xbox Cloud Gaming service, which makes games on its Game Pass service playable over the cloud. The service was made available on both Logitech's cloud gaming handheld, and the Meta Quest Store.
Additionally, Google's upcoming line of Chromebooks will feature a web app for the service.
To drive the importance of the cloud home even further, Microsoft has let Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members launch a cloud game by typing the title into he search bar of Bing or Microsoft Edge.