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Is Microsoft Flight Simulator DLC Free? Mostly Yes for the Base Experience

As an aviation enthusiast, you‘ve likely heard about Microsoft Flight Simulator – the breathtaking new flight experience that brings the entire planet to life in rich detail. You’re eager to explore smooth, realistic flight mechanics combined with satellite-generated scenery. But with whispers of various DLC packages and add-ons, you may wonder – is MSFS completely free to enjoy? Or is crucial content locked behind paywalls?

The answer, friend, is a reassuring yes – this incredible simulation can be fully experienced without spending more than the base purchase price. Microsoft provides numerous free DLC updates expanding the world, aircraft fleet, and authenticity. Payware add-ons offer another level for devoted simmers, but are completely optional to immediately take to the open skies in MSFS.

Let‘s look at what DLC encompasses, what exciting free content is available, where payware fits in, and how MSFS gracefully balances open access with deeper immersion. I‘ll also share my perspective as a fellow flight sim enthusiast on getting the most magic from MSFS whether you stick to the free DLC or indulge in premium payware.

What Does DLC Mean for Flight Sims?

DLC stands for downloadable content – extra optional digital packages that enhance a game or simulation. DLC can unlock new areas to explore, equipment to use, gameplay modes, visual upgrades and more.

For flight simulators, DLC introduces new aircraft, airports, geographical regions, improved graphics and physics, campaigns, tutorials, utilities, and other addons.

While some DLC is free, premium "payware" add-ons can also be purchased to further expand the experience. We‘ll cover what‘s freely available for MSFS, as well as the role of payware shortly.

Microsoft‘s Ongoing Free DLC Commitment

First, the good news – MSFS includes 20 highly detailed aircraft and an expansive catalog of airports covering the entire planet out of the box. And Microsoft has continued supporting the platform with exciting free DLC on a regular cadence:

World Updates – Gorgeous graphical enhancements for specific countries and regions like the United States, Nordic nations, and Japan so far. These replace procedurally generated scenery with crafted airports, roads, trees, terrain, landmarks, and more.

Top Gun: Maverick Expansion – In partnership with the new movie, this DLC added six training missions aboard the FA/18E Super Hornet with a custom livery.

Major Sim Updates – Core upgrades like advanced weather simulation, enhanced flight modeling, seasonal changes, and live real-world traffic.

Local Legends – Unique aircraft like the 1903 Wright Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, and Ford Tri-Motor reproduced in great detail.

Let‘s look at some of these free updates MSFS owners have enjoyed so far:

DLC NameRelease DateDescription
World Update I: Japan9/29/2020Enhanced scenery for entire country with improved airports, foliage, roads, points of interest
Reno Air Races10/19/2020Gameplay mode recreating famous air racing event with pylon challenges
World Update II: USA11/17/2020120 handcrafted airports, 90 tailor-made points of interest in the Western USA
Local Legends: Boeing 247 & Douglas DC-312/22/2020Two early airliners with accurately modeled cockpits and flight dynamics
Top Gun: Maverick Expansion5/25/2022Added carrier based FA/18E Super Hornet featured in new movie plus training missions

This generous free DLC sets the foundation for exploring an already vast planet in rich detail. For a newcomer to flight simulation, hundreds of hours of excitement await without exceeding the base MSFS purchase price.

And Microsoft seems committed to expanding the platform over time for all users instead of segmenting core content behind DLC paywalls. This welcoming approach has resonated – MSFS has become the best-selling flight sim of all time with over 10 million simmers experiencing the joy of virtual flight.

The Optional World of Payware Addons

For the deeply devoted simmer, an entire ecosystem of premium payware add-ons exists to take the MSFS experience even deeper.

The in-platform Marketplace provides payware aircraft, airports, scenery, utilities and other content from official partners and third-party creators. Prices range from $10 simple addons to $50 – $80 for highly realistic aircraft reproductions.

Some of the most acclaimed payware comes from developers like:

  • PMDG – Incredibly detailed commercial airliners like the 737 and DC-6.

  • FlyTampa – High fidelity airports like Boston Logan, Amsterdam Schiphol, and Sydney.

  • Orbx – Scenery and airports focused on the Australia region.

  • Captain Sim – Vintage piston airliners like the original 707 lovingly modeled.

Payware provides unmatched realism for simmers dedicated to mastering authentic procedures and systems for their favorite aircraft and locations.

Yet payware can become a financial slippery slope. With so many additive options, costs can spiral out of control. Avoid impulse purchases that rarely get used.

Instead, focus payware spending on areas matching your specific aviation passions for a targeted enhancement. Think of payware akin to switching a default cube character model in a game with a highly detailed custom skin reflecting your personal flair.

Balancing Open Access and Deeper Immersion

Microsoft skillfully walks the line between open access and monetization with MSFS. The free base experience presents a canvas covering the entire planet in impressive detail. Ongoing free DLC expands this foundation for all users.

Payware offers another tier of realism for hobbyists seeking ultimate authenticity. But newcomers need not get distracted by this high-end realm.

After returning to flight simulation after many years away, I‘ve happily spent dozens of hours in the cockpit enjoying free DLC locales and aircraft. The artistry and accuracy MSFS offers out of the box has entirely rekindled my dormant enthusiasm.

Yet I admit curiosity about selectively dabbling in payware for beloved aircraft like the 747 and A320 down the road. The ability to gradually enhance areas that spark your passion helps keep the experience feeling fresh and rewarding.

So while hardly "free," given the need to purchase the base program, MSFS succeeds in welcoming all types of aviation fans. Stick to the free DLC and this spectacular platform delivers endless horizons. Or upgrade with payware and unlock additional layers of realism that deepen your specific interests.

Either way, MSFS represents an exciting milestone – a flight simulant that finally opens the skies to all through a balanced approach between free content and optional paid expansion.

Let your dreams of flight take wing knowing that this breathtaking virtual world now lies open before you. The journey awaits! Clear skies and tailwinds, my friend.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.