It’s been two weeks since the biggest flight simulator conference, FlightSimExpo, took place in Houston, Texas. People from all over the world met to hear and see what developers had to show, and hopefully get a glimpse of the new content they are bringing to flight simulation.
Similar for us, the FSElite team, we came from all over the world to tell you about the developers, what they were bringing to FSExpo and try and get a little bit more info from them through interviews. Some of us attended FSExpo for the first time, whereas others can be considered seasoned veterans by now. Either way, new or seasoned, here are some of our thoughts and take-aways from FSExpo.
FSExpo was a fantastic experience on another level from what I have experienced to
date. To be in a room surrounded by 2000 like-minded people, as well as historic
aircraft, was something that I had missed since attending other shows prior to the
pandemic. This was my first visit to FSExpo and I was initially staggered by
the sheer number of big developers that were exhibiting, but also so many smaller
exhibitors that I still hadn’t heard of. Many people in the flight simulation community also have a passion for other simulations such as racing, trucking, farming and even goats…
This was my first time attending any kind of slight simulator event. Needless to say, I was blown away by everything from the product announcements to the booths. Even more importantly, I was humbled by the passionate people that I had the pleasure to nerd out with. It was an absolute pleasure to hear from many of our readers about FSElite’s impact on the community. It really emphasised what we as FSElite are doing and why we are doing it.
This was my first ever experience of a flight sim show, having only gotten truly absorbed into the hobby when MSFS released. Prior to joining FSElite I always imagined flight sim as a very niche thing, where add-ons were produced by volunteers or part-timers as side projects on top of a normal 9-5 day job. Since starting with FSElite though, I am in awe of the true scale of the industry that works every day behind our virtual cockpits. Meeting the hundreds of people from various development studios across diverse backgrounds attending the event is proof that the industry driving our hobby is absolutely thriving right now. It’s not just a niche thing anymore, where developer teams of a dozen or so people comprise the bulk of the market.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from one of the world’s largest dedicated flight simulation conferences and tradeshows. Nor was I sure how to explain to friends and family where I was going for the weekend. I even went as far as brainstorming a cover story about “just a normal, boring work conference” if the person seated next to me asked what was bringing me to Houston.
As FSExpo 2023 got underway on Friday afternoon, any apprehension I had was quickly dispelled. The energy in the room was palpable (and so was the heat). Over the next several hours, a who’s who of industry developers took the stage in front of a crowd of over a thousand people. Applause and cheers rang out as each new product was announced and new features were demonstrated. The chatter in the room between sessions was filled with enthusiasm and convivial chatter about the upcoming sessions and announcements. As I left the Grand Ballroom on day one, I couldn’t help but smile; After all of these years, it was great to finally be among like-minded flight simulation enthusiasts. “My” people.
I wanted to touch on the behind-the-scenes from our team. These shows are always hard work and tiring. You can probably see that in our faces as we do more and more interviews. This year was our biggest yet and I’m proud of the effort we put in.
I’m pleased we managed to give coverage to a number of developers in a number of different ways this year. The at-home interviews gave us breathing space at the show, whilst our magazines helped to give developers a chance to give their thoughts through text rather than be on camera. It meant we were able to give coverage to 20 different developers, whilst not spinning our own wheels too much. We’ll still look back and consider what we can do better, but I’m proud we managed to release all the interviews within a week of the show closing, provide on-site coverage of the seminars as they happened, plus some cool snippets post-show to help keep the hype going.
Highlights of the Show
With so many people at FSExpo there was a lot to see. Large and small developers brought their software and hardware to Houston for everyone to look at and try out, there were seminars and chances to talk to your favourite developers directly. We asked some members of our team about their highlights from the show.
As for the product announcements and booths, I was particularly excited about the A2A showcase of their upcoming Comanche. I was very impressed at how they were able to incorporate Accu-Sim into the new simulator and I can’t express how excited I am to fire up the Comanche for the first time and inevitably start breaking things. In addition to the A2A announcement, I very much enjoyed playing around with all of the hardware being showcased. Needless to say – if I win the lottery, I’d love to have a room full of military, GA and airline specific hardware to elevate the immersion of my simming experience.
My highlight of the show had to be meeting the team from iniBuilds in person. Their stand was nothing short of incredible; with a station set up to fly time trial missions, a massive white structure dubbed ‘the ice cube’ by attendees which showcased the ‘iniBuilds experience’ – a kind of panoramic 5 minute video which showcased all of the work that this studio is up to, as well as discounts and merchandise galore. I got the chance to interview Ellise from the team about all the exciting projects the team of 50 people are working on, from the Airbus A300 which just released, and perhaps even more excitingly a new long-haul aircraft coming soon which is confirmed to be from Airbus. Given how they are renowned in the industry for their product quality, I can’t wait to see how they can continue to push MSFS to its limits with this new plane, and to see what amazing things they will be getting up to in MSFS2024!
Northern Reliable Transport are part virtual airline and part haulage company that has built a small but growing community through their love of transporting goods across the globe. Headed by Nicholas Pradel, a global aviation logistics broker in the real world, the team has built an API that bridges the gap between flight simulation and truck platforms to enable users to join up with other members of the community to take over and carry the haul on its further journey. Using Nicholas’ real-world knowledge, the team have created a very true to life and tangible practice of logistics that is free to join, has low minimum activity commitments and is available on most platforms including MSFS Xbox.
A Few Last Words
With all that said, Trevor and Calum both had a few last words to wrap up our FSExpo experience.
It’s a great time to be a flight simmer. If the previous observations didn’t make it clear, I feel that we are fortunate to be involved in this hobby at this time in its history. For a long time, flight simmers endured uninspiring graphics, a lack of quality aircraft and scenery, and expensive if not unobtainable hardware. But now, there’s an ever-growing market of quality flight sim products coupled with an excitement for what’s next.
Through the conversations I had, the products I saw, and the friendships I made at FSExpo 2023, I can confidently say we are part of a hobby that is finally getting its turn in the spotlight. We have the backing of major corporations, talented and passionate developers, and most importantly, a strong and diverse community. I’ve returned from FSExpo 2023 proud of our hobby and eager to keep sharing my passion, and that of so many other like-minded flight sim enthusiasts, with the world. Oh, and when I attend the next FSExpo, I don’t think I’ll need that “just a normal, boring work conference” cover story.
Above all, I’m proud of our team as a whole – those at the show and those at home. Everyone pulled together to keep everything running smoothly. Plans changed, technical hiccups happened, but everyone bonded well and gave it their all. It’s my yearly reminder that I am super lucky to be surrounded by talented, enthusiastic and tenacious people who really do care about the flight simulation community and what we want to do for everyone who reads our content daily.