Microsoft Flight launches in spring as free-to-play

Microsoft Flight will launch into the skies of Hawaii this spring, held aloft by wizardry and a free-to-play model, Microsoft has confirmed. A selection of planes and missions will be available for free, with more aircraft, regions and "customization options" sold through Games for Windows Live.

While you'll be able to fly above Hawaii by twiddling knobs and pressing buttons within the cockpit, following "authentic piloting procedures," if you really want to, Microsoft's hoping to appeal to new players too with optional keyboard and mouse controls from an external view.

Curiously--and perhaps sensibly--a Games for Windows Live login isn't mandatory, but Microsoft will encourage players to sign up by offering freebies and goodies including a Boeing Stearman plane, extra missions, a pilot profile, and Gamerscore-boosting achievements.

Players will get to fly the amphibious Icon A5 for free before the actual plane launches, Microsoft also revealed. "Why should this fact excite me?" you may ask. Well, it's the latest snazzy small plane intended to make aviation accessible to all--though the $139,000 price tag might hinder that.

There's no word yet on how much extra content will cost, but Microsoft set prices surprisingly high in Age of Empires Online, the free-to-play RTS announced alongside Flight.

These were two of the games Microsoft pointed to in 2010 as a sign of its renewed commitment to PC gaming, along with the PC edition of Fable III. Fifteen months later, we've yet to see Microsoft follow through on its observation that it needed to "step up" its PC gaming efforts, but at least we'll get to play Flight soon.

If you want to play a little sooner, beta signups are still open.

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