Third-Party Aircraft Development - Tail Wagging the Dog?

If we assume that Navigraph’s Flight Sim Survey results are true, which I believe is a reasonable thing to do, we know that the overwhelming majority of simmers who took the survey are using the most popular sims (MSFS & X-Plane) for GA and commercial simming, flying standard GA aircraft, airliners, and business jets, over and above everything else like helis, fighters, warbirds, gliders, etc.

So, why is it that third-party developers (and even MS/Asobo) are putting so many resources into developing anything other, namely military aircraft and warbirds, than the most popular types of aircraft, as’s aircraft-in-development list implies?

While variety is a good thing, and I myself enjoy the occasional warbird flight, the third-party aircraft market just seems so far out of equilibrium that I am beginning to fear that smaller devs, especially those creating GA aircraft and business jets, will eventually be driven out of the market unless they too start developing the dime a dozen warbird, fighter, or airliner.

The explanation that makes most sense to me is that the average Xbox gamer is not a Navigraph user (82% of survey respondents do not own an Xbox), so they did not take the survey. Yet that same average Xbox gamer makes up a large portion of the MSFS user base. I am therefore inclined to think that the average Xbox gamer has become a more dominant segment of the third-party aircraft market than the rest of the flight sim community. As a result, the market dynamics are skewed largely in favor of the average Xbox gamer and at the expense of the Navigraph user who is more representative of the flight sim community as a whole.

Otherwise, it would be completely inefficient and illogical for a dev to create anything other than a GA aircraft, business jet, or sophisticated airliner, for MSFS.

So, this first quarter of 2023 is important for the third-party aircraft market. I think it will be instructive of where we go from here. But the way it looks right now, to the extent that my observations are factually true, the XP12 team and community might have a golden opportunity for the taking.

I don’t fly XP12 currently, but if it can become even just marginally competitive with MSFS’s visuals, I will switch immediately.


This isn’t an account that I recognise. I just don’t think this is a true picture at all. A good, perhaps the best representation of the most popular aircraft is probably in the Top 10 favourite aircraft thread. It tells us a lot about the aircraft that all MSFS users are flying. And there is a good mix of types, civilian and military.

Categorising Xbox or PC users is most unhelpful I think.


Nah thats not true at all. The flight sim community is huge and takes in a lot of different tastes and interests.

When looking around online in the sim at who’s flying what airliners and fast jets are the two most common aircraft types I see flying around, regardless of where I’m flying. Helicopters are quite popular too. Smaller GA aircraft not so much.

This is definitely true.


The MSFS team recognizes that different simmers – regardless if they use the PC or Xbox platform – all have their own individual preferences when it comes to what type of aircraft they prefer to fly. Between the base MSFS package, the Reno collection, the Top Gun: Maverick expansion, and free updates such as the Game of the Year and 40th Anniversary Editions, we’ve provided almost every aircraft type. Whether you like piston engine GA, turboprops, business jets, narrow and wide body jetliners, military jets, classic planes from the golden age of flight, vintage warbirds, helicopters, gliders, experimental eVOTLs like the Volocopter, or even fictional aircraft like the Darkstar and Halo Pelican, we’ve done our best to offer something for everyone to enjoy regardless of their individual preferences.

Different third-party developers will each have their own motivations when it comes to what planes they choose to create. I’m sure some devs chase the market and go after what they think will generate lots of sales (and there’s certainly nothing wrong with making something popular that many simmers want to buy), while others create passion projects that they don’t expect to sell particularly well but the dev has a strong affinity for a particular plane and really wants to bring it to the sim. One thing I’m sure of: there’s a huge number of third-party developers making great things for MSFS, and over time the library of available aircraft will grow to include almost every popular plane (and even some not-so-popular ones!) to ever fly since the Wright Flyer.

When I look at the last several weeks of new planes released in the Marketplace, I see a variety of different aircraft types represented; new airliners, piston GA, military jets, vintage planes, and helicopters have all been released in recent weeks. I wouldn’t say that third-party releases on the Marketplace have been dominated by any one type at all.


Personally I am glad that there is a great variety of aircraft available to us. My particular areas of interest lie mostly with vintage aircraft and other ‘interesting’ types. Modern airliners don’t do much for me, but I do understand the attraction a lot of people have for them.

I suspect a lot of the projects chosen by the 3rd party devs are really passion projects when you get right down to it, and revenue isn’t the only driving factor. Also, a modern airliner is a very complex machine to simulate if you are going to do it properly…for a small development team, that might not be viable - you can’t work for several years without a paycheck. Also, lets face it, old airplanes are far more interesting :wink: .


The numbers suggest that long term flight simmers are in the minority in this game.

Maybe the majority of users find the default GA aircraft and airliners good enough and the demand for even more GA aircraft and airliners is not there - unless of course they are specialist super study level PMDG level things that only appeal to a tiny minority of long term experienced simmers and hence are expensive.

Business jets is a bit odd though, we really only have the default Citations, Vision jet, the Honda jet and rumors about a possible PC24 eventually from Iris.


I think the premise of this article is faulty. Now granted, maybe some of the types of addons are what receive the biggest hype, so there is bias in what is being perceived.

But lets look at the last month. There have been 4 helicoptors released. 1 jetliner. 3 GA aircraft. 2 fighter jets. 1 E-jet. 1 ultralight. 1 retro military jet. That is by going over the last 4 weeks of what was released in the ingame marketplace plus what was released in SimMarket. I didn’t account for what was released on However, that appears to be quite a bit of diversity there. It was not just fighter jets and jetliners.

I truly dont see an issue where one particular genre of aircraft is out of balance, or where there is pressure being put on developers to only work on specific genre. It could be possible that the original premise is seen only on XBox, I didn’t review based on platform. But if that is the case, many aircraft cannot make it yet to XBox until WASM. Once that comes, I expect the same variablilyt of genres on XBox too.


theres a flaw in these assumptions: that of the navigraph user and the reach of the survey.
consider the survey is largely unknown in much of the combat flight sim community, except for those who fly civ sims also.

second, the average navigraph user is by no means the average sim pilot. theres wide swaths of people who see or gain little to no benefit from navigraph. the ones who do are the folks flying business jets or airliners or GA on IFR routes, et cetera. but the causals? the folks who like bush flying? GA doing VFR flights? people whose navigation consists of little more than following the magenta line ? the combat simmers? none of them are likely to see any reason to use navigraph. so it stands to reason why the market demand in the survey skews towards a market segment that may not be reflective of the community at large

consider efficiency may have little to do with it. for many devs, making aircraft is a side-gig. a hobby that happens to pay, many make aircraft they are interested in, are passionate about, or ones they have documentation for

i dont think there are many - if any- devs making stuff they have no interest in


I can think of one aspect to the question. If you were a developer working for X-Plane 11 for years, and had made a lot of military aircraft for that sim, it makes business sense to bring those products across to MSFS, rather than develop something from scratch. In effect that is what many of them have done for GA, but if you have warbirds as well, why not remake those as well?

I have 180 aircraft in FS2020. For me it comes down to the quality of the addon. A lot of the aircraft in the market are sub-standard. Some are amazing. The amount of detail and true to life functionality and quantity textures is what i considered when purchasing. It seems that the warbirds from flying iron and milviz are above par. PDMG sets the bar for realism and visuals. This is a sim, and i will buy anything that reproduces realism as close as possible. This incudes GA, military, and helicopters. There seems to be to many money grab addons in the market. I wish microsoft would set a standard for any aircraft before its permitted into the market. At least the level that Asobo releases.

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I fly for real, and when I fly IFR in MSFS, I use the tools I use to fly with rather than paying for Navigraph. I agree with your premise.

I love the variety of planes we have in MSFS right now, pretty much everything I could possibly want to fly is available now. I like it all, except for the heavies. I might choose to learn heavy procedures someday, but, I just don’t have the time right now, and I much prefer flying planes I might choose to fly or fly in someday, and this includes warbirds. I’d love to see a SAAB 240 someday as I flew as a passenger in those a lot a long time ago. But the Islander is close enough in that category for me… I’m so happy we have a Beaver now, a dream plane for me.

The Top 10 aircraft thread is all we need to understand the most popular planes in MSFS today, at least among those users who even know this forum exists, lol. I wonder what the percentage of MSFS users that is?


I can’t think of a better way to promote this than to add a “Help” option within the sim, which would have links to the forum site, as well as to the FAQ. Perhaps a new button in the main interface somewhere?

The splash screens could be used for this as well, but pass by too quickly, and aren’t interactive.


The factor that is being forgotten is, there is only one plane on XBox currently that Navigraph CAN be used on. There is no Navigraph addon in the store, they can’t download PMS50 GTN750, etc. Only one plane allows for a direct link to Navigraph. You can’t segment XBox users as not representative of the flight sim community because they don’t use Navigraph when it is almost impossible for them TO use Navigraph. I am sure there would be plenty of XBox users who would love to be able to use it.

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“forgotten” may be the wrong word, not known may be better. from my point of view: i have neither an xbox nor a tv to use it on, so personally i have no conceptualization of the xbox msfs experience. many of PC users might not be on xbos & wouldnt know either.

im not disagreeing with you, your point is completely valid: im just being pedantic about a word choice, lol!

Think the truth is MSFS is diverse and is trying to cover lots of users, which is no bad thing. But…

MSFS (all version) has always been the platform and the third party community has been what made it big.

I for one would like to see MS/Asobo move much faster in opening up and developing the SKD/API etc, give all the developers the tools to provide what the community wants and MSFS needs.

I’d also say to MS/Asobo, do not try and do everything in house, when you can free up time by allowing third parties to fill gaps or do things better.

MS/Asobo should concentrate on the base package, as long as flight dynamics, graphics and useability (smoothness) is maintained, the third party developers will fill other gaps as they have done in the past, if they have the tools and communication platform with MS/Asobo.

PS, no not a developer, only a user, who would like to use it more (time issues)


Personal Comments and Observations

I happen to have the perspective of being in several programs under NDA (not MS or Asobo related). Without going much further, I respectfully do not see the same view you have. :slight_smile: Let’s just say the decision process is much more nuanced than what you’re positing, and it’s actually quite interesting the various layers that are driving development decisions. What the market consumers are from a segment perspective is just one of them, and you’d be surprised how the platform choice is not as material a factor as you’ve stated.


I’m baffled how anyone would want to fly a big airliner at all. I know 4 pilots that fly big jets for the airlines, none of them particularly love it. All but 1 fly smaller GA aircraft for fun. Ask any real pilot if he’d rather fly a Mustang or an Airbus…

Having said that, I think the xbox crowd is certainly having a negative impact. You have a huge swath of players flying around in flat screen, using an xbox controller, wondering why the airplane keeps swerving off the runway when they put in power. This crowd attracts and encourages devs to build overly simple aircraft, with hot garbage for flight models and system modeling. The 3rd party market is littered with them.

Not having access to real life satellite data, or the incredibly advanced terrain building AI that MSFS uses, I don’t see XP12 catching us anytime soon. So all we can do is support the really advanced aircraft, and shun the garbage. Vote with your wallet, it’s always gonna make the biggest difference.


Consider the possibility that part of the segment who want to fly commercial jetliners aren’t PPL holders at all, and it’s just the experience they want to have. I know I was one of those folks way back when. :slight_smile:


Why is this issue exclusive to the Xbox?

You’re telling me that every-single-person with a PC who’s seeing MSFS 2020 in the MS Store or on Steam and is considering buying it has a ready-to-go home cockpit with yoke/stick, throttles and pedals?

I don’t understand why the blame lies on the Xbox. There are thousands of PC gamers who use a keyboard and mouse and/or Xbox (or similar) controller to play their games. You’re telling me there isn’t a single one of them who has bought MSFS and tried to fly with some combination of those controls? Why is this so quickly overlooked when wanting to blame the Xbox for the anything negative related to the sim?

If you want to “blame” anything, blame the modern era of mass marketing and ease of exposure to the fact that MSFS 2020 is even a “thing” and is accessible to anyone with a basic PC or a newer Xbox console. It’s not a niche hobby anymore, easily overlooked by the “gaming” crowd. You’d be hard pressed to not have heard of it. That, in itself, is going to draw a non-simmer crowd.


My older brother is a 787 captain and instructor for Virgin Atlantic. I have quite funny conversations with him regarding FS. He’s incredulous why anyone in their right mind would want to waste their time flying airliners in the sim when there’s planes like the F-35 or Spitfire which are actually FUN to fly. As he says why would you want to drive a bus when you can drive a Ferrari.