Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is a very divisive game. Long time fans of the series accused it of being a dumbed down version, made to appeal to the Call of Duty audience. I never have being a fan of the series, so I liked the demo a lot and I will buy a copy for me as soon as I find one. The demo was very fun and exciting, and being able to feel like an ace instead of needing to be one to thrive in the game is very good.
Simulators are trick business. The fans of the genre want the most realistic experience possible without needing to have access to fighter jets and choppers. But the size of such an audience is not that big. Simulators require training and skill before you can be good at it. So, what do gamers who don`t have the skills or are just starting in those games can do?
Arcade style games are they solution. Instead of being constant punished by their inexperience or lack of skill, they still can enjoy the games and feel like an ace in those games. So, of course, they will go toward games with a better learning curve for them and that reward they more often than a simulator would. And of course, those are a bigger audience than the simulators fans.
So, game companies know that games who are easier to learn and play will sell more than hardcore simulators that demand time and dedication. Therefore they will seek this audience more often. I agree that Namco would have done better if Assault Horizon didn't had the Ace Combat moniker, since it would not make the old time fans feels 'cheated' because the developer decided to make the game more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.
But what those fans, and many gaming fans seems to forgotten is that not everyone is experienced and skilled. Many people seem to not want newcomers to games, feeling like they are the only ones deserving to be gamers and that no one is allowed to enter their precious private party.
Of course, the other hand on this matter is that developers must take care of those fans too. But it is not by only looking at old fans and forgetting to attract newer ones. Making to game series, one for the simulator fans and other to attract new ones is the challenge here. New fans will become old fans and wanting to try the more realistic and challenging games.
Dumbing down is two words thrown rather freely around the community. It is rarely the case. I think. I would only consider dumbing down if this meant an auto-win mode, where no matter the lack of skill of a player he would finish games without doing more than holding the controller.
But we must always remember that none of us, gamers with years of experience, started with mad skills from start. We were newcomers once and prone to mistake. And denying the chance for a new audience to enjoy games feels just wrong.