Is ORBX aiming to become the new distribution platform for flight sims?

Jun 11, 2018 | by Sérgio Costa
The company has already established contracts with others to distribute their work through their platform. What does this mean to us?

ORBX FTX Central

During the past few days, we have seen two developers entering the realm of ORBX. Turbulent Designs and now Frank Dainese are starting to distribute their products through ORBX’s system.

Turbulent Designs is doing it in a more thorough way, as they seem to be migrating all their stuff into ORBX’s platform while Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini are only bringing the new stuff along.

In his recent interview with us, John Venema, the owner and CEO of ORBX has shared his vision of the future of flight simulation with us and mentioned that “Eventually the actual flight simulator engine will be marginalised and not relevant anymore. It will be all about the content which will run across a bunch of different simulators. The best performing most open standard sim will be the most commonly used. Closed proprietary platforms will die off. It has always been about the content.”.

These maneuvers from ORBX towards bringing not only old partners to the company again but also allowing other companies to distribute their products seem like a clear indication that John puts his money where his mouth is and, indeed, believes the concept of “simulator as a platform”.

Which is what we’ve been looking at for quite some time. Why did FSX survive for so long? Because it was an open platform which companies could build upon.

Is this good or bad for us?

It depends.

If ORBX does it “the right way” it can be good for everyone. Developers can focus on doing their stuff while ORBX takes care of the distribution (and perhaps marketing) part.

While ORBX will, obviously, take a cut out of the developers’ margin the truth is that they will also save on things such as bandwidth, the beforementioned marketing and even DRM, which protects their work.

They (the developers) will also potentially sell more as they have someone aiming to sell more of whatever they have in catalog.

The downside?

Prices could go up

If developers are getting their profits slashed, they might be afraid not to have enough money and raise their prices.

DRM done badly can be a huge nightmare

We’ve seen it before on other markets inside the gaming community. Folks getting their purchases blocked or their licenses revoked. If not done correctly, this can become harsh for everyone. I am trusting ORBX is doing it right, though. They don’t usually fool around, do they?

No local backups

This is kind of a pet peeve to me. I like to have my scenery all stored in another HD and, whenever necessary, just copy & paste it into a new X-Plane installation. From what I’ve seen, ORBX takes that away from me and that’s just annoying. To me, that is.

So, a new Steam-like platform?

Our community usually trembles whenever the word “Steam” comes up. But the truth is that I see ORBX marching towards this direction. And not just for scenery.

All of the sudden you can have a unified distribution platform for scenery and, perhaps, other types of addons as well, such as aircraft.

Obviously, not all companies will join the ORBX bandwagon (a few have their own distribution system working properly and will never delegate the security and the control of their products to a third-party). Nonetheless, the smaller companies or those that want to focus on developing their products more than having to spend money and time may see ORBX as a good partner and as a way to reduce costs, protect their work and reach more people.

I am very curious to see what’s coming next and I wouldn’t be surprised if FTX Central would start to see some cosmetic changes in the future to get the path paved for a bigger distribution system.

John, ORBX, I’ll be keeping my eye on you!

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

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