What do Uber and MS Flight Simulator have in common? Solve underserved needs

A plane flying Madrid in Flight Simulator

It is the best selling game in pre-sales on Steam, even costing more than 60 euros. Its launch has filled pages and pages highlighting the revolution presented by Microsoft Flight Simulator. Bing’s maps, the meteorology and other flights in real-time, a multiplayer option, and the highest detail are the ingredients of this success, but why these and not others?

The simulation videogames share a handicap, they are at the limit. Games like F1 depend on a very loyal community that wants to have the latest cars, but at the level of gameplay and graphics, things don’t change enough from one year to another.

Why this Flight Simulator breaks that trend? Simply because it does very well what the rest of the titles did or did not do regularly. And this is not a trivial thing, but it is part of a solid structure of value proposal, which defines if a product succeeds or fails (chance aside).

Underserved needs

According to Dan Olsen’s “Lean Product Playbook”, there are a number of elements that accomplish the Product Market Fit, i.e. how suitable your product is in a particular market. These elements can be displayed in pyramid mode as follows:

⬆️ From “Lean Product Playbook” by Dan Olsen

These unmet needs are part of the market and are essential when analyzing the competitors and finding out what I can do better to be used and bought. In this case: realism.

Total realism

Something that existing and successful games like X-Plane 11 do very well is to simulate a flight. They do the basics: the planes respond as they would in real life and the controls work as they should. And that’s it, don’t look outside the cockpit. Flying in bad weather means finding grey polygons on the screen without any more, and the environment of airports and cities is not even satellite photos.

This is a major barrier in games such as X-Plane 11, which force you to download a lot of unofficial content to simulate, in part, the environment of cities:

High-resolution photos of the Iberian Peninsula for X-Plane 11
High-resolution photos of the Iberian Peninsula for X-Plane 11
⬆️ Groups of high definition photos of the Iberian Peninsula to download in X-Plane 11. Each picture is approximately 3–4 gigs and the installation takes its own

From the Microsoft cloud, this Flight Simulator manages not only to improve the look of the planes and how their fuselage behaves in the air and on the ground, but the whole planet has a never seen before level of detail, almost real since it downloads as it is needed. Cities have buildings represented in 3D and many airports are recreated in detail. The weather is also in real-time: if you fly in Madrid and it is raining, you fly in rain.

Both in the cities and in the accesses to the airports we see cars and trucks circulating. The airspace also has planes in addition to yours. They are real flights like the ones you see on websites like flightradar24. At the airport, you will have to wait for your turn to take off or land, just like in real life.

The height of realism appears in this game if you fly through areas with wildlife. You can see giraffes running, elephants looking for food, or birds migrating. The wildlife is also represented in the Flight Simulator.

“We got it”

It is likely that someone in a Microsoft office gave this speech:

“Simulators are a classic of video games that will never stop selling, and the world of airplanes does not have a spectacular one like soccer (FIFA and PES) or basketball (NBA 2K) does. We have a mapping system in our company and very powerful servers so that flying around the world does not force to download orthophotographs of gigabytes and gigabytes of weight. We seem to be the only ones who have realized that we can use the Internet in a simulator”.

Everything else, therefore, does not require special care. The UX can be the usual in a video game interface, the value proposition is not very different from other flight simulation games and includes those novelties that make this MS Flight Simulator a unique game.

This example should help us to identify those markets that, although saturated, contain traces of success if we manage to build a complete and differentiated value proposal.

Product Manager | antoniorull.com