There is no greater oxymoron than those two words people always use to describe us simmers: “toxic community”. According to the Meridian-Webster dictionary, a “community” is “a group of people sharing common characteristics and interests”. Hence, if we all share common interests and characteristics why is this group so toxic? Or I should ask the better question: Is flight simulation still the community that it once used to be? My answer is no. And I will explain in great detail.
When Microsoft first launched flight simulator, it required a lot of imagination and enthusiasm in order to feel like you are flying a plane. Any outsider used to think of me as crazy while I saw a commercial flight cruising to JFK while they saw a light blue screen with some dials. Therefore, I immediately clicked with those in the community that became immerse into a screen by virtue of their imagination and passion. Times changed.
Fast forward to today, and you have “study-level” airplane add-ons, full cities that come to life on approach and every aspect of real world flight recreated with unprecedented detail. We no longer have to use our imagination or be aviation nerds to fire up P3D V4.3 fully loaded with add-ons. We went from members of a small community to loyal consumers of software. So I would like to challenge the perception of a “small community” and make you realize that as consumers, we demand quality and innovation. I do however; want to make a clear distinction between P3D and X-Plane users. The latter is an actual small community where many users provide outstanding freeware add-ons and even share a giant collection of “Ortho” among them. It is worth mentioning, however, that this is starting to change as the bigger developers began to exploit the untapped X-Plane market with pricey add-ons.
Over the years I watched this love-hate relationship evolve between simmers and software companies that refuse to break out of the tiny box. First it was the 32-bit fiasco. After P3D released the much anticipated 64-bit Version 4, it became the performance issues and the lack of hardware optimization. I’m willing to bet that most simmers are not aware that will never find the perfect flight simulator. Yet the quest goes on and on and the forums are flooded with error logs.
What I find most disturbing about this industry (sorry, I can’t use the word community), is the consumer’s willful blindness to monopolistic behavior. In fact, we actually defend it! For example, there are just a handful of talented developers. And every time a developer announces their plan to develop a certain airport, all other developers (or competitors) immediately remove the scenery from their potential pipeline. This courtesy among developers leads to a huge problem in this industry. There is absolutely no incentive for developers to focus on smaller or more remote fields until every major airport is accounted for. Why is this? Because by developing a high-quality major hub you are securing a steady cash flow with a tacit barrier to entry for all other developers. And god forbid a bunch of developers release the same major hub, the “community” goes crazy! Barcelona is the clear example.
So my question is the following: why do simmers behave this way? We must wake up and realize that this is not a “community”; this is a small target market where most of us spend a handsome allowance each year to acquire the latest add-ons. And they are not cheap! In comparison to add-ons for other games, P3D add-ons are very expensive. This leads me to the next and perhaps most destructive monopolistic behavior of the industry: Publishing and distribution. There are a very limited number of distributors of other developer’s work that keep a huge commission. Therefore, the actual developer needs to price the product high enough so they can turn a profit after every layer gets their cut. It seems to me that simmers, under the false pretense that they are part of a community, fail to question the questionable business practices that inflate to cost of the products they are purchasing.
In conclusion, i would like to end this rant by making a clear distinction between the nostalgic days of the AVSIM freeware library as our main source of addons versus the present. Today, us the devoted simmers, have a lot more power than we give ourselves credit for. Which is why I have such a hard time digesting the idea that what we get and when we get it is in the hands of a very short list of large publishing companies that enjoy multi-million dollars in revenue each year. And they do this by avoiding competition, creating large barriers to penetrate the consumers, but more importantly, by taking advantage of the talented developers that turn our default sim and make it look a lot closer to the real world.
I will ask all of you simmers to think about the point that I raised and state your ideas or experiences here