In 1986, Kesmai released Air Warrior, one of the first online flight simulators. For an hourly fee, players could use their 2800 baud modem to dial into the DARPAnet, or whatever, and fight in an online battle arena. Given the technology in play, I can only imagine that it must have been a gigantic train wreck. But it must have been a train wreck with potential, since Kesmai kept improving on the game; releasing sequels, getting it onto mainstream services like America Online, and eventually switching from an hourly fee to a flat monthly fee. By the time I encountered Air Warrior it was a sophisticated product, allowing 256 players to choose from over 40 planes (plus a few ground vehicles) and do battle. For the time, it was groundbreaking. Even today, few games are willing to shove 256 players onto a map.
While Air Warrior’s technology may have been ahead of its time, the Air Warrior business model was anything but: Pay a flat fee, play with planes. There were no experience points, no awards or badges no micro transactions, and no artificial gating. Every plane was available to every player. How the hell were you supposed to monetize that? Kesmai didn’t seem to have a great answer; they were eventually bought out by EA, who did a good job keeping the Kesmai monthly service running up until the point when they didn’t.
Today, Air Warrior is but a memory. Wargaming.net, however, seems intent to fill the gap in our souls with the upcoming World of Warplanes. Not being in the beta, I can’t tell you much about the game, but I’m pretty sure the first time I log in I will not have 40 planes immediately available to choose from. If I want them, I’m going to have to buy them.
After the jump: Becoming a “BargainJaeger” Continue reading →