FSX, Prepar3D, X-Plane – who won the battle for flightsim supremacy last year? It has been said that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the 2014 Avsim Demographic Survey.
Last year I wrote about «the future of flight simming» in a three part blog series and I used the 2013 Avsim Demographic Survey as the foundation for some of my arguments. The Avsim Demographic Surveys provide us with invaluable insights into our community about who we are and what we like to do. Last month the 2014 Avsim Demographic Survey was released giving us an update on how our community is evolving. Did we see some significant changes to which simulator the flightsim community prefers?
Nah, not really.
As expected, FSX sees a small decline in usage. In the 2014 survey FSXs market share is 68%, which is down 5% points from 73% in the previous survey. FSX is still the king of flight simulators. No surprises there.
Usage statistics for FSX are also down a bit. 72% of FSX owners say FSX is their primary flight simulator which is down from 78% previously. No big surprises here either.
The King is still the King.
What about P3D which so many simmers are touting as the up-and-coming new king of flight simulators? Has it managed to conquer market shares from FSX? Yes, it has. A significant market share? Not really.
To quickly recap my position on P3D from my earlier blog posts; I stated that I would not currently develop for P3D because of its 4% market share which I think is too small to be commercially viable for me. Has P3Ds market share changed this past year?
Looking at P3Ds progress by itself this past year one might say that its growth has been phenomenal. It has more than tripled its market share rising from just 4% in the 2013 survey up to 14% in the 2014 survey. Not bad at all. Those are some solid numbers.
In actuality though, what is P3Ds big accomplishment here? P3D has beaten FS2004 for the number two spot behind FSX. Prepar3D, a flight simulator which has been on the market for over 4 years now since 2010, just surpassed the market share of a flight simulator that was released back in 2003. And it’s still far behind FSX. Phenomenal? In this context; hardly. But we’re really comparing apples and oranges here.
I’m throwing P3D into the same bag here as all the other flight simulators because these are the sims people discuss as the possible heirs to FSXs reign. In my opinion, P3D is not a contender in that race. P3D is a flight simulator with a different purpose for a different market. There is no need to compare it to FS2004, FSX, X-Plane or whatever is coming from Dovetail Games. As a commercial use flight simulator in a field of entertainment use simulators, P3D stands alone in a category of its own. As such, I think it’s doing very well. P3D is cementing its position in the marketplace. I still think it’s here to stay.
Usage numbers for P3D are also up. 33% of P3D owners now use P3D as their main flight simulator. This is up from 14% the year before. 34% of P3D owners still say this is the sim they use the least, but this is down from 55% in the previous survey. For comparison; only 10% of FSX owners say FSX is the flight simulator they use the least.
P3D has a solid fan base and an increasing market share. P3D is doing quite well. This does not change my earlier position on P3D though; P3D will never be the next market leading simulator for the flight simulation community. My reasoning for this opinion is still the same; P3D is not a flight simulator for the entertainment use market.
Commercial use or entertainment use; who reads the EULA anyways? It doesn’t matter! #amirite.
It does matter.
Let’s flip this around for a second. Imagine P3D v1 and P3D v2 are named FS11 and FS12 repectively, and being developed by Microsoft not Lockheed Martin. From a technological stand point this may very well have been our reality right now had MS not decided to give up on FSX.
When, in the history of MSFS, has a successor ever not eclipsed the market share of its predecessor? Never. Why hasn’t P3D been able to do just that? Again from a technological stand point, P3D appears to be superior to FSX in every way. Why isn’t it more popular? Because of the commercial use license.
The only reason P3D is being included in this discussion at all is because P3D is developed from FSX. If LM had developed P3D completely from scratch and independently of FSX we wouldn’t be having these discussions about how it compares to the other entertainment use simulators. But it is closely related to FSX, and we are having these discussions. Apples and oranges.
How is X-Plane doing in the 2014 survey? We’re basically seeing the same thing we’re seeing with P3D. X-Plane is doing well. It has more than doubled its market share, which by itself is great. But X-Plane still only has a 6% market share. It’s still behind FS2004. It still has a lot of catching up to do.
Usage numbers for X-Plane are also up. 17% of XP10 owners now say it’s their main simulator which is up from 9% previously. Not so great is the fact that there are still 52% of XP10 owners who don’t use the sim much or at all, but this is down from 61% in the previous survey so at least things are moving in the right direction for X-Plane.
Another interesting point about the 2014 Avsim Demographic Survey is seeing the relationship between newer and older simmers coming into the community in terms of which sim got them into the hobby. 93% of respondents say they own a copy of FSX. But only 48% say they own a copy of FS2004. This means half of FSX simmers came into the hobby after the release of FSX. And only a quarter of users, or 27%, came into the hobby prior to the release of FS2004.
Personally, I started simming with FS4 which came out in 1989. I guess I’m part of the minority of older pilots then because the majority of simmers seem to be «newcomers» to the community having been introduced to the hobby by whichever is the latest flight simulator on the market. This is exactly what we are missing now; a new flight simulator to introduce new people to the world of flight simulators.
I suppose FSX: Steam Edition just took on the role of «gateway» sim now being pushed to new simmers on the Steam network. But that’s just temporary. What we’re waiting for is the new flight simulator from DTG. I’m hoping that will be the driving force we need behind our hobby to push it into the hands and minds of new generations of flight simulation enthusiasts.
Time will tell. I’m hopeful.
Download the 2014 Avsim Demographic Survey results here.