Gamers waiting with bated breath for a new product is nothing out of the ordinary. Long has been the tradition of standing in lines for hours on the release night of a new title. But what about expansions? Those are a little less sought after than full releases, but they can still generate a lot of interest. For simulators, their expansion products, or add-ons, are often treated with the same reverence as the main sims themselves. This is especially true for flight simulators, and the release of the Boeing 737 for Microsoft Flight Simulator by PMDG has proved this.
The release of PMDG’s new jet was sought after for months by many in the flight sim community, including the team itself. After all, even the developers initially anticipated it would be up-and-running within a few months of the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator in 2020. But, here we are, nearly half-way into 2022 and only now is it taking to the skies — for a fortunate few, that is.
A false start
The road, or runway, to release for PMDG’s 737 has been dotted with many crevices and potholes. Microsoft’s next-gen architecture was expected to play nicely with the workflows of long-standing add-on studios such as PMDG. After all, the company has produced add-on content for Microsoft’s products and other simulators for decades at this point. But, despite the foundations of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator being based on the tech it succeeded, the synergy hasn’t been as smooth as initially expected. To the detriment of both PMDG’s developers and the studio’s fans, this is why the delay of the Boeing 737 has lasted so long. After all, PMDG even admitted that it’s been working with Microsoft Flight Simulator since late 2019.
But now, thousands of hours and almost three years later, the work is done. The Boeing 737 has wrapped production, and on May 9, she was cleared for take-off. Yet, it appears the winds of excitement have all but frozen her flight path.
PMDG announced the release date of the Boeing 737 for Microsoft Flight Simulator mere days prior to its release as a sneaky little line at the end of a teaser video. But it cheekily refrained from specifying exactly when the product page would go live, as has become standard with most digital releases.
So, customers waited all day, watching the studio toy with their patience by updating the cover image of its Facebook page with images of the 737 in various forms of its departure procedure as a cryptic form of communication. First, it was standing at the gate, then pushback before finally taxing, and the last update showed a successful takeoff, marking that the release was indeed live.
But, almost too ironically, the early hours of release functioned like an aircraft that had to make an emergency landing immediately after takeoff.
Flight status: “Departure ground stop”
The sheer volume of customers overwhelmed PMDG’s servers, causing its website to crash mere minutes after the 737’s release. Customers, such as myself, who did manage to make a purchase in the few minutes between release and the server crash received mixed outcomes.
Some customers were able to purchase the PMDG 737 and receive their emailed download links and product codes before the servers seized up. But, the vast majority of customers were either cut-off just after purchase (like myself) or were locked out from purchasing entirely.
PMDG had to forcibly deactivate the ability to purchase the 737 due to not wanting to further overwhelm its system with new requests, seeking to sort out the initial wave of customers first.
As of 10:39 PM ET on May 9, the state of PMDG’s 737 launch was dubious at best, with existing customers in limbo and newcomers locked out. The studio continued to provide multiple updates telling users that it was working diligently with its service providers to get the problems sorted out. In my case, as I was writing this post, my product key and download link finally came in an email around 11:30 PM ET.
Considering I purchased the 737 at just after 5 PM ET, that means it took about six hours for me to actually be able to download the product.
Such an event is by no means uncommon in today’s age of digital purchasing. Servers are inundated all the time with product and service launches. But, again, this is an add-on for a simulator. Indeed, it’s a big add-on for a very big simulator, but this situation is still more on the uncommon end of the spectrum.
It does at least go to show that all the hype surrounding its release wasn’t just talk by the community. Play activity surrounding the PC version of Microsoft Flight Simulator may very well visibly spike up for the next few days in Asobo’s metrics, even.
The icing on this cake is that PMDG’S Boeing 737 isn’t just a large release in terms of complexity and popularity, but also price-tag. It has the introductory price of $69.99 USD with a full list price of $74.99 USD once the introductory period is over. It’s more expensive than the sim itself, which isn’t uncommon but still puts things into perspective.
Now that it’s finally available, PMDG’s Boeing 737-700 seeks to provide true “study-level” detail in terms of both aircraft behavior, along with technical and mechanical complexity that PMDG describes as being “the closest thing to getting a real type-rating and flying a 737 in real-life.”
The PMDG Boeing 737-700 for Microsoft Flight Simulator is available from PMDG’s online product store for $69.99 USD.