Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) stuck on loading screen with a blue bar

It's Microsoft - did you expect to have a "good" experience?

18 August 2020
Played on Windows

Here's the short version, in case you just want this issue fixed and done with.

  • Unplug any controllers you have, until the game is fully loaded and you can get to the settings screen.
  • Try running as admin. After it's installed, it will appear in your Windows Start menu, and you can right click and choose "run as administrator".
  • Try restarting the entire computer.

How not to launch a game

Let's face it, we were excited that Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) was coming to Game Pass. It's a great deal for everyone. Microsoft sells more subscriptions, and gamers get to try a game that has, historically, been notoriously expensive towards the start of each release.

Of course, it's a Microsoft game, so it's a shambles. The framework for launching the game will be installed, and the Xbox app will tell you it's finished, but it hasn't. It's just finished installing the thing that does the installing.

Why the hell is this thing called the "Xbox" app anyway? It's a PC. I think Microsoft will go down in history as the company least able to name anything.

Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10... wtf

Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X... wtf

When I launch a game, I'm expecting, you know, the game to actually appear on the screen in a few seconds, and show me a loading screen.

My system is okay. Core i9, 32 GB RAM, GTX 1080 Ti, NVME SSD. It took twenty seconds from the moment I clicked the launch button, to the first time anything appeared to give me any idea it was doing anything at all.

Hey Asobo, Microsoft, you ever hear of a splash screen?

Microsoft Jank Simulator (20janky)

So we're now seeing a bunch of unskippable logos. Okay, fine. Then some accessibility options, which is nice to see. Then something that looks like a blue loading bar.

But there's no words on it. No explanation of what it's actually doing, no numeric progress, just a bar.

And it doesn't move!

What is this jank? I'm pretty sure every Unity developer has done better than this on their first ever project.

Turns out that I have a controller (Saitek HOTAS) plugged in, so it's crashed, but hasn't actually shown me that it's crashed. It just hangs there for 10 minutes without doing anything before I give up and kill the process.

Did you not think to test what happens when you plug in various controllers and start the game? I once had a FIFA game that did this on PC, but that's Electronic Arts, and it was a controller I wasn't going to use with the game anyway.

This is specifically a game where the whole point is that you could plug in a very wide range of controllers, and in the pre-release marketing, Asobo have made a point that virtually anything is supported.

It's just... nobody thought to try loading the game first time with some USB stuff plugged in?

The Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) installation screen

Welcome to Loading Screen Simulator (2020)

This is not how you do a game installation. I have to download and run a bit of the game, then leave it running while it downloads the rest?

This is sucking a huge amount of power, requiring active cooling from my PC, while this single image with some text is showing on the screen. What's it doing here? Trying to solve Fermat's last theorem? Because it looks to me like it's just installing a bunch of files, which is something you can do in a launcher, or you know, part of the "Xbox" app itself?

Although this screen shows you the total amount of data to be downloaded (91 GB by the way, so much for "we'll stream it all from Azure"), it doesn't show you progress as a percentage, it doesn't calculate time remaining, it doesn't show current download speed, it's an abomination of a progress bar for such a long task.

Then I notice the worst crime of all... it's waiting to download each file one by one, until the previous one is "decompressed"!

Windows task manager Ethernet graph showing large gaps in download speed

Multitasking hasn't reached Asobo yet

Here's the nice thing what computers can do: more than one thing at a time!

So rather than download each tiny little file manually, then stop downloading until the file has individually been decompressed, why not just download everything and decompress it at the same time? Genius, right?

So it turns out that even if you have a really strong internet connection, you're still bound by your CPU and drive speed, because a lot of the time here is wasted by pausing downloads between decompression, and there's a lot of files to download.

A necessary evil?

The question is really, why is any of this necessary? Just do what everyone else does and install the entire game up front, and launch it ready to use.

It's unclear why any of this is necessary, why it takes twenty seconds for anything to happen after trying to launch the game, why it crashes silently when a controller is plugged in, why the installation progress bar is so awful, why it needs to pause to decompress files, just... why?

Although I've read and watched a number of reviews of this game, I'm baffled as to how this is new information for me. I'm wondering if the reviewers had a different, less janky system to work with, or did they all just count it as "not part of the review" and ignore it?

If there was a minor technical issue installing a game, I might think it was okay to avoid mentioning it during a review, but something this convoluted and unnecessarily terrible is surely worth a shout?

With this title generating buzz because it's new, and being on Game Pass, it means a lot of non-flight-simmers will get to try a game they wouldn't normally. Or, they might, if it wasn't such a nightmare to get running. Which is a shame, because, if I just had a passing interest in flight simulators, and was faced with this much challenge (and electricity usage) to complete the simple task of installing a game, there's no doubt I would have just moved on by now.

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Unplug your Saitek joystick!

If you have a Saitek joystick plugged in, try unplugging it.