GameSpy.com has a preview of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X, out on October 2, 2006. I like what I’m hearing:
The demo began innocuously enough: on Firminger’s screen was a blue orb surrounded by a visible atmosphere, suspended in a void. Spaceship Earth, as recognizable by most of its inhabitants. Interestingly, what he had onscreen wasn’t a desktop image or a version of Google Earth; it was Flight Simulator X, rendering the planet, atmosphere, and stars in real-time. […]
Geographical details are much more visible: the ground resolutions are significantly improved over its predecessor’s, allowing for the rendering of roads and flora in significantly higher detail: to the tune of 6,000 trees per square kilometer. […]
Via Internet connection, Flight Simulator X will monitor 5,000 real-time weather feeds in order to more accurately render the game’s meteorological systems.
More where that came from. This is still clearly a flight simulator, and a game. The multiplayer options also turn this virtual globe into a world with one shared state (for participants). The big question is, how much of this technology will be turned into a geobrowser? Microsoft certainly didn’t buy Vexcel and GeoTango to make a better 3D game.