Microsoft Flight Simulator isn't a TV show — but it should be

One of the most impressive parts of Apple TV 4K isn't that the hardware will last you for years, getting update after update. It isn't that it supports just about every streaming service out there, and that you can watch nearly any movie or TV show you want on it. It's not the access to millions and millions of songs, or the smart home features, or even the awful the remote. (OK, it's definitely not the awful remote.)

No, one of the best features of the Apple TV platform continues to be the screensavers. The ultra-high-definition views of our plant — above, below, and on the surface — that will capture your attention as much as anything else you'll ever actively do on the platform. So much so, in fact, that it's my screensaver of choice on Android TV and in my new Chrome tabs.

And while there's no beating real-live footage, the latest trailer for the upcoming version of Microsoft Flight Simulator — coming Aug. 18 and available for preorder now — is the only other thing I've seen in recent memory that I'd even consider running in the background while the TV's on but nobody's watching.

The landscapes are gorgeous. The shadows and highlights look as real as ever — maybe even more than real.

And what better way to see the world than by air. Fly over New York City of Las Vegas or Hawaii — wherever Microsoft wants to make you. Visit parts of the world you might never get to visit otherwise. (Particularly while U.S. residents are essentially landlocked thanks to our handling of the global pandemic.) 

And there's something in it for Microsoft, too. There already is ample product placement seen in just the trailer — airplane manufacturers and airlines already are in on the game. Tourism boards could take part, too. Airports could use it as promotion. And they could all do it in an unobtrusive way while also giving you a stunning 4K background in your living room, instead of just a blank screen.

A couple things would have to happen to make this a reality, though. First is that Flight Simulator 2020 is going to be a PC-first affair, and we'd need to see it on Xbox to really get any sort of traction. (Even better would be to see it as some sort of purchasable app or option on other platforms, too.) Second is that Microsoft would have to want to make this happen.

Because right now it's just stuck in the imagination of someone who's been stuck on the ground way too long.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.