Readers of this site know that over the past few months I’ve transitioned nearly entirely from Prepar3D 3.4 to X-Plane 11. I’ve done so having spent a significant amount of money on Prepar3D add-ons:
- The A2A 172, 182, Piper Cherokee, and Piper Comanche
- Various Carenado aircraft, my favorite being the Cessna 177 Cardinal
- ORBX Vector, North America Landclass, Europe Landclass, and four US regions
- A handful of add-on payware airports
- NightEnvironment and Taburet night lighting
- Photorealistic scenery for several states
- MultiCrew Experience
- Active Sky 16 and Active Sky Cloud Art
- REX Direct HD textures
- Flight1 GTN 750 GPS
- And probably a few others I’m forgetting
The total for all these add-ons? I don’t know. A lot. Too much, probably. Please don’t add them up for me and tell me. Suffice to say I’ve spent a fair amount getting Prepar3D to look and act the way I like. In this I am in good company, because if you use Prepar3D or FSX, you probably have done the same. Because of its old code base and limited formal development since being abandoned by Microsoft years ago, FSX/P3D have benefited from a significant amount of work by the developer community to keep the sims up to snuff. Getting them to run takes a PC. Getting them to look and act in a modern fashion requires add-ons.
So it’s no surprise that a common lament here and in other online forums this year has been, “I’d give X-Plane 11 a try if I didn’t have so much invested in P3D/FSX.” Emotionally I know that makes sense, but economically, it actually doesn’t. That’s because it’s a “sunk cost fallacy,” described here as:
Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). This fallacy, which is related to status quo bias, can also be viewed as bias resulting from an ongoing commitment. For example, individuals sometimes order too much food and then over-eat ‘just to get their money’s worth’. Similarly, a person may have a $20 ticket to a concert and then drive for hours through a blizzard, just because s/he feels that s/he has to attend due to having made the initial investment. If the costs outweigh the benefits, the extra costs incurred (inconvenience, time or even money) are held in a different mental account than the one associated with the ticket transaction (Thaler, 1999).
The sunk cost fallacy is at least one reason people hold onto bad investments much longer than they should. It also explains why businesses and governments often keep investing in initiatives that don’t perform well — there is a desire to get a “return” on an investment that’s already been made. In economics it’s called a sunk cost. In our common tongue, we might call it “throwing good money after bad.”
I remember learning about the sunk cost fallacy as an econ minor in college (many moons ago). I also remember the appropriate way to make a rational decision when faced with a sunk cost, which is to ask the question, “If [decision] would cost you nothing, would you do it?” So, using the example above we would as, “If the concert ticket was free, would you drive hours in the blizzard to attend?” No, you wouldn’t.
“Throwing good money after bad” is a bit harsh for investment in sim software. It’s probably better stated as, “Throwing more good money after good money.” But economically speaking to not try X-Plane because you’ve invested in P3D or FSX add-ons — or to not try P3D or FSX because you’ve invested in X-Plane, for that matter — is to commit a sunk cost fallacy. The money you have invested is gone. You cannot get it back, and it is unavailable for future investment whether you feel it was wasted, worthwhile, or something else. The way to treat that sunk cost is to ask, “If you could try X-Plane 11 (or P3D/FSX if you’re an X-Plane user) for free, would you?” Most of us would say, “Of course!” But it’s not free, so the real question is, “If you could try X-Plane for only $59.99 / P3D for $59.55, would you?” And if fact, you CAN try the X-Plane 11 demo for free, so there you go.
But don’t sweat what you’ve invested so far in the other platform. You spent the money, and one hopes you enjoyed the experiences it afforded. But letting it keep you from making a future decisions, while emotional, isn’t economically sound. If you want to give the other platform a shot, and can afford the sign-up fee for the software, go for it. I did, and I don’t regret it. Besides, P3D is still there for me if I want it.
PS: There is a wrinkle in this story. The more accurate economic evaluation would be, “If you could try it for only the cost of getting it how you like it, would you?” In this case, my experience is that X-Plane 11 has its advantages given its large body of freeware add-ons.