Making a living out of FS2020 development?

I work in software development for a large company that does business middleware and it’s quite boring. Always been into flight simming but never had time to delve into any SDKs. Having to work from home due to Covid has really made me realise how much of my job enjoyment came from the office and chatting and joking with colleagues, all I have now is boring business software programming on my own in a bedroom. Is there any hope for an individual to make a living developing fs2020 add-ons? Looks like everything individuals do is freeware, so if I wanted paid work in flight simulation software I’d have to get a job with one of the companies that do this. Would be great for our hobby to also be our job.

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Here you go, here’s an idea for your mod, you could do it for kicks, money, experience :grin:

If you’re committed and willing to develop aircraft and high quality, custom scenery - it seems like you can make a decent amount of money making add-ons. I don’t know that it could be a single source of income. I have zero experience with that, but it seems like groups that do this are usually teams of a handful of people or less working on parts of a project best suited for their skill level.

I’d say there are so many airliners out there folks would love to buy and fly, if they’re even close to study-level. But it seems like the SDK right now is only good for scenery development, and maybe a little incomplete for aircraft.

What I’ve been able to gather over the years, is that this is a business that many 3rd parties do as a side venture/hobby. It’s just too much of a niche.

In some cases, of course not all, this has led to a cycle of new models/ scenery getting pushed out the door too early, then promptly left behind.

After 5 years of making addons - a resounding “No” from me. A select few individuals get lucky, as with every business. But by and large, best you can hope for are between 3000€ and 5000€ per year on average as a small developer in your own right.

Of course you could develop the addon that everybody wants. For a few months, maybe even a few years. But IMHO the risk of investing a massive effort into something that won’t return even 5% of that investment is too great, to bet your daytime job and old age pension on it. Plus, even when you stay constantly on your toes and try to create new addons all the time - because only the new sells good - the period when it becomes old is usually short: about two months from experience.

The “companies that do this” are all very small. From the sounds of it, no comparison to your current employer. Not only do you have to find one that is currently hiring and looking for your specific skillset (which may be difficult in the current state of the “industry” - unless you are a certified Javascript expert…), but they also have to be willing and able to pay you what you came to expect in your current job. Which is not realistic if you are a newbie to the game.

Btw. programming flightsim addons is just as boring, even frustrating at times. Code is code. Only the results are more tangible and more “colorful”. And of course, doing your own thing, your own product, that only you are responsible for, that can be gratifying all in itself. But do it on the side, as a hobby. If you strike gold, you can always quit your daytime job. If not, it just stays a hobby, no harm done (if you can live with the imbalance between effort invested and the abysmal return - but it wouldn’t be a hobby, if it made sense).

Best regards
Oliver Binder


Thanks all, answered my question perfectly. Won’t quit my day job just yet, but will devote some free time to checking out the SDK (sacrificing some FS2020 playing time which I can’t get enough of atm).

Some freeware makers can publish a lot of material. Just visit the Avsim library and read the “downloads” count on some of the models produced over the past five or six iterations of the Microsoft flightsim franchise. The thing is - would any of their products have sold as payware? Just do a hypothetical count and assume a pro download price of $20 - if you have a GOOD product, then there is money to be made.

Also, dare I say it, in the repaint sector. Even my humble offerings were downloaded on average 500 times each over many repaint libraries out there, and believe me - there are jetliner livery painters who generate that many downloads on just one aircraft. At around 250 liveries that means even my own humble slice of the that pie means my work has been downloaded 125000 times. There are repainters who had thousands of their aircraft repaints downloaded - per single livery! Imagine if all these repaints had been offered at $5 a go - not a really bad asking price, no?

But devotees are also generous, which is why freeware works.

And then there are companies like A2A, Aerosoft, Iris, Nemeth, Orbx and many more. Produce the right product and yes - you can make a living. Or produce freeware and live with the knowledge that you are supportin a great circle of like minded friends.

MSFS 2020 promises more though - I think that despite the hiccupy start it is having, the numbers look great.

So I would say to you: be happy to earn side-money for a while. Learn the conventions Asobo and MS have given us and find that “wow factor”.

Don’t think too much - Just Do It (sorry Nike)

Don’t make the mistake of misunderstanding the economicsbehind free stuff. (for example people start riding public transport as a tourist attraction is it’s free)

You could probably divide your download numbers by about 10 000 if you charge 5$ for a livery.

Very true. Freeware devs are a great resource for good, solid programming.

And bear in mind that you don’t have exclusivity, expecially with artwork. Whatever livery you are trying to sell will be out there as freeware too. Piracy shouldn’t be disregarded either, your product will be available for free in the usual places in no time - or shared between users, since for only $5 there is no harm done, right?

I was only using a price tag for liveries as an example guys…

But remember one small detail: how many repainters out there realise they are actualy breaking copyright laws and could end up with big bills? It’s why Microsoft FSX only had a few realworld paints and I bet Asobo are also wary of infringing copyright laws by only having a couple of realworld paints too. The same goes for aircraft too.

Yes, aircraft liveries are subject to copyright, especially if they have been contracted by major airlines to internationally acclaimed designers. I started asking for permission to use an aircraft owner’s liveries about 12 years ago, maybe longer, after I came across a livery I liked and the designer found out and threatened with a cease and desist - although when I explained the purpose, he was OK with it.

I’ve created liveries for realworld aircraft too and I did more or less the same with a redio control model maker who decided to recreate my work on a realworld livery for a Marchetti 260. Of course I didn’t refuse, because I know the owner of the real aircraft and he was tickled that his plane now exists in a few thousand different iterations in sim, model and real…

Besides, if you ask for permission, you can make interesting new friends - I can count Patty Wagstaff as one acquaintance and a few owners of Reno Race T6 aircraft (The Buehns are a great team with their “Midnight Airforce” liveries). And then there are the SMART (Small Manned Aerial Radar Target) aircraft - BD5 Js that impersonate cruise missiles as targets for the USAF to “shoot down”. Also about 50 or so other real world aircraft owners.

So you guys who think it’s OK to redistribute even freeware without express permission need to rethink what you say. Even using a 3rd party logo on a paintscheme (such as Champion spark plugs, the Pitts signature, Lycoming, Hartzell etc…) even trademarks are protected property.

…and if I read the Asobo blurb right, there is a possibility even for repainters to use the DRM tools in msfs - although I haven’t asked them yet.

Anyway, the OP was about can we make money from 3rd party work in msfs. Yes you can and there are ways you can protect your work too, so that it doesn’t end up as stolen giveaways too easily. And don’t forget to ask permission to recreate the realworld aircraft…

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Next month will be 14 years since I went full-time doing scenery development. The goal is to support myself, and sometimes I can:) The trouble starts when life gets in the way – health issues put me out of action for a year, and it’s been a rough trip back.
The trick is to make sure that you always have something to fall back on, I really mean savings here. For every dollar I earn, I need to save half to keep me going through the lean times. At the moment this is one of those times, as a Prepar3d scenery developer sales have been hit hard with the release of MSFS, so until I have a MSFS product things will remain tight.
Even with the uneven income, I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. Not to mention the fact that at about 45 years of age I became a bit too old for most good jobs. That’s just a fact of life. I’m now heading towards retirement age, and I will get a pension which will help, but I will keep doing this until I can’t any longer.
So if you don’t care about getting rich, then it’s a great choice. An obsession helps. If you are not obsessed, then don’t even consider it.


It should be very easy to make almost a million dollar every year by developing for MSFS 2020.

You make a basic, video-game version of your aircraft for the upcoming X-box version (some developers have already started doing it). You don’t charge a lot of money for it too, which will translate to a lot more sale even.

Then you make an advanced, study level version of that aircraft for the core simmers on PC, and charge a lot more money for it.

Few months (or years) later, Xboxers get bored with the basic version, buy PC, install MSFS on the PC and buy your aircraft again, but the advanced version this time, which means you are making more money now.

And that is the basic version of my blueprint for making a million dollar every year by developing for MSFS. Okay may be not a million dollar but you get my point :stuck_out_tongue:

@GodzoneVF I have been thinking about this topic for the last several years. I have been developing freeware airports for the 8 years for FSX, X-Plane and now MSFS. I’ve been a Systems Administrator for the last 15 years and have found myself not having much of a passion any longer for this profession, what I seem to never lose my hunger for is addon scenery and have found myself wondering if it were possible to make enough money to live from payware addons.

I hope this isn’t an overreach, but would it be possible to ask you a couple questions maybe through email (since I can’t seem to find where to send a DM through this forum)? I would be forever grateful and if you let me know you company, I would be happy to make a purchase from your scenery library.

i have idea, make a great mod everyone knows and asobo will reach out to you to hire you, like the workingtitle did.