At long last, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is finally taking off. The latest version of this hyper-realistic sim is available to download today (August 18). Here's everything you need to know, from the price to the airplanes you'll be able to fly, to the equipment you'll need to run the game.
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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 release date
Since the first version was released in 1982, Microsoft's Flight Simulator has been known for its realism, from the aircraft to the flight performance to the geographical world around it.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is available for PCs, and Xbox Game Pass subscribers. It will also be released for the Xbox, presumably with simpler controls, but the company has not said when this version will be released.
Microsoft Flight Simulator price
Microsoft Flight Simulator is being released in three versions: The Standard Edition costs $59.99, and will let you fly 20 different planes. The Deluxe Edition ($89.99) includes 25 aircraft, and the Premium Deluxe Edition ($119.99) includes 35 aircraft.
While all versions let you land and take off from 37,000 airports around the world, each edition has have "handcrafted" airports with additional details. The Standard Edition has 30 such airports, the Deluxe 35, and the Premium Deluxe 40 airports.
The Standard Edition is also available as part of Xbox Game Pass for PC (beta), which is currently just $1/month.
In Europe, would-be pilots can also purchase Microsoft Flight Simulator as a 10 double-layer DVD box set via Aerosoft. It should be available at retail locations by August 21.
All versions are currently available for download.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements
This is not a game for wimpy PCs. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 requires, at minimum, a Windows 10 PC with either an Intel i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200 processor, an Nvidia GTX 770 or AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU, 8 GB RAM, 2 GB VRAM, 150GB of hard drive space, and support for DirectX 11.
According to Windows Central, Microsoft recommends an Intel i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X CPU, Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 590 graphics, 4GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, and a 20Mbps download speed.
You're also going to need a decent Internet connection, as map updates from Bing are said to be sizeable.
On August 17, Nividia announced that it has game-ready drivers available for Flight Simulator.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 VR headset compatibility
Microsoft Flight Simulator will first be available on the HP Reverb G2 VR headset. Available for preorder ($599), the Reverb G2 is slated to ship this fall. It will feature dual 2160 x 2160 LCD panels and four tracking cameras, and will be compatible with both Windows Mixed Reality and Steam VR platforms.
Microsoft has not announced compatibility with any other VR headsets at this time, but we will update this story accordingly.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 aircraft
The following aircraft are available in Microsoft Flight Simulator:
|Standard Edition||Deluxe Edition||Premium Deluxe Edition|
|Aviat Pitts Special S2S||X||X||X|
|Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental||X||X||X|
|Daher TBM 930||X||X||X|
|Diamond DA40 NG||X||X||X|
|Flight Design CTLS||X||X||X|
|Robin CAP 10||X||X||X|
|Robin DR400-100 Cadet||X||X||X|
|Beechcraft Bonanza G36||X||X||X|
|Beechcraft King Air 350i||X||X||X|
|Cessna 172 Skyhawk (G1000)||X||X||X|
|Cessna 208 B Grand Caravan EX||X||X||X|
|Cessna Citation CJ4||X||X||X|
|Zlin Savage Cub||X||X||X|
|Beechcraft Baron G58||X||X|
|Cessna 152 Aerobat||X||X|
|Cessna 172 Skyhawk||X||X|
|Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner||X|
|Pipistrel Virus SW 121||X|
|Cessna Citation Longitude||X|
|Zlin Shock Ultra||X|
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 airports
According to Microsoft, players can land and take off from around 37,000 airports around the world. However, 40 of these airports have "hand-crafted" elements, offering more detail and other features. So, for instance, all players will be able to fly into San Francisco's airport, but only those who have the Premium Deluxe version will be able to see these hand-crafted items. Microsoft has not specified what the exact differences are between hand-crafted and non-handcrafted versions.
|Standard Edition||Deluxe Edition||Premium Deluxe Edition|
|Aspen/Pikin County (USA)||X||X||X|
|Bugalaga Airstrip (Indonesia)||X||X||X|
|Chagual Airport (Peru)||X||X||X|
|Courchevel Altiport (France)||X||X||X|
|Donegal Airport (Ireland)||X||X||X|
|Entebbe Int'l Airport (Uganda)||X||X||X|
|Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira Int'l Airport (Portugal)||X||X||X|
|Gibraltar Int'l Airport (UK)||X||X||X|
|Innsbruck Airport (Austria)||X||X||X|
|Los Angeles Int'l Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Nepal)||X||X||X|
|Nanwalek Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|Orlando Int'l Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|Paris Charles de Gaulle Int'l Airport (France)||X||X||X|
|Paro Int'l Airport (Bhutan)||X||X||X|
|Queenstown Airport (New Zealand)||X||X||X|
|Mariscal Sucre Int'l Airport (Ecuador)||X||X||X|
|Rio de Janeiro-Antonio Carlos Jobim Int'l Airport (Brazil)||X||X||X|
|Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Dutch Saba)||X||X||X|
|Gustaf III Airport (France)||X||X||X|
|Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|Sedona Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|Sirena Aerodrome (Costa Rica)||X||X||X|
|Stewart Airport (Canada)||X||X||X|
|Sydney Airport (Australia)||X||X||X|
|Telluride Regional Airport (USA)||X||X||X|
|Haneda Airport (Japan)||X||X||X|
|Toncontin Int'l Airport (Honduras)||X||X||X|
|Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (Canada)||X||X||X|
|Schiphol Airport (Netherlands)||X||X|
|Cairo Int'l Airport (Egypt)||X||X|
|Cape Town Int'l Airport (South Africa)||X||X|
|O'Hare Int'l Airport (USA)||X||X|
|Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas (Spain)||X||X|
|Denver Int'l Airport (USA)||X|
|Frankfurt Airport (Germany)||X|
|Heathrow Airport (UK)||X|
|San Francisco Int'l Airport (USA)||X|
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 map
As impressive as its aircraft modeling is, Microsoft Flight Simulator is also known for its highly accurate rendering of the Earth. The simulator relies on Microsoft's Bing Maps, and uses Microsoft's Azure AI to incorporate terrain data, foliage, as well as real-time weather for photorealistic graphics.
Microsoft Flight Simulator: Recommended peripherals
For those who plan to purchase Microsoft Flight Simulator, the company recommends the following peripherals, which include a variety of flight controls:
Extreme 3D Pro
Flight Rudder Pedals
Flight Throttle Quadrant
Flight Yoke System
Warthog HOTAS (stick + throttle)
T.Flight Stick X
T.16000M (stick only)
T.16000M FCS (stick + throttle + rudder)
T.Flight HOTAS 4
T.Flight HOTAS One
T.Flight HOTAS X
T-Flight Rudder Pedals
Xbox Adaptive Controller
Microsoft Flight Simulator: What the critics are saying
Across the board, reviewers who got their hands on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 praise the game for its attention to detail and amazing graphics.
Matt Hanson of TechRadar says "For fans of the series, and simulator games in general, the new Microsoft Flight Simulator offers a dramatic generational leap that will define the genre for years to come." However, he notes that there's a real learning curve, and recommends purchasing a peripheral, such as a game controller or flight stick, rather than relying on a keyboard and mouse.
Seth Macy of IGN is even more effusive, and calls Microsoft Flight Simulator "the most incredible experience I've ever had on a computer." He says that the game takes up a huge amount of data, especially when downloading Bing maps, so it's worth pre-loading some areas to save yourself some bandwidth issues.
Jeffrey Wilson of PCMag calls Flight Simulator a "love letter to aviation," but also noted it took him nearly 24 hours to download its 150GB installer. He says the learn-to-fly mode is essential for getting the basics down, and also liked how much you can customize the graphics, down to real-time weather and air traffic.